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The Piano Lesson by August Wilson
Review our Introduction to Drama handout
Review our Lecture PDF: Literary Theory lecture
Course Reading – Click Preview and Read the Piano Lesson Foreword by Toni Morrison:
https://www.google.com/books/edition/_/Gk-iDwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0Links to an external site.
Read the following brief bios on August Wilson:
http://www.august-wilson-theatre.com/biography.phpLinks to an external site.
https://www.biography.com/writer/august-wilsonLinks to an external site.
Course Viewing -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgxqyOpKwo0&feature=emb_title
Although set during the Great Depression, August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson depicts
a variety of contemporary themes and conflicts in America, some very
prevalent to this day! The central theme concerns the importance of
history – understanding the historical context of the world in which we
As noted by The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, The Piano Lesson is
a play “in two acts by August Wilson, produced in 1987 and published in
1990. The play, which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1990, is part of
Wilson’s cycle about African-American life in the 20th century. The
action takes place in Pittsburgh in 1936 at the house of a family of
African-Americans who have migrated from Mississippi. The conflict
centers around a piano that was once traded by the family’s white master
for two of the family’s ancestors. Boy Willie and Berniece, the
siblings who inherit the piano (carved to show family history), argue
about whether or not to sell it. Berniece’s climactic refusal to allow
Boy Willie to move the piano exorcises both the literal and figurative
ghost of the white slave owner who has been haunting the family.”
For your 1000 word written analysis, consider the characters Boy
Willie and Berniece in light of today’s American society. In keeping
with the jargon of popular culture, beam them up into
today’s world! Transplant both characters into contemporary Pittsburgh
(or Los Angeles for that matter), and carefully consider how each would
think, feel, and act today. Which themes would be consistent? Which
conflicts are still prevalent? This is a “speculative” opinion essay –
you will need to recreate these two characters in light of today’s
world. In your
analysis, include references to at least two literary theories AND make
at least five (5) specific references to scenes, action, and dialogue
from the play.
Please include an introduction and conclusion. In your introduction,
state your thesis on whether the play’s themes are consistent with
attitudes in contemporary society. In your conclusion, I would like you
to reflect on your own personal feelings/reactions to the play.
Your grade will be based on the thoroughness of your analysis, the
strength of your examples, and your thoughtfulness and openmindedness.
The Piano Lesson Turnitin Essay makes up 10% of your final grade (10
You are required to break up your ideas into multiple paragraphs. The general rule is to keep one idea per paragraph, so essays
written with very few paragraphs will be marked down. Please make sure
your paragraphs are well-developed – at least 5-6 sentences long. Add a
transitional phrase at the beginning of each paragraph.
Include references to at least
two literary theories AND make at least five (5) specific references to
scenes, action and dialogue from the play.
Your introduction needs to state your thesis on whether the play’s themes are consistent with attitudes in contemporary society
Your conclusion needs to reflect/focus on your own personal feelings/reactions to the play.
If you choose to quote dialogue: Use quotation marks and write
strong and detailed signal phrases to introduce your quotes. Papers with
weak or missing signal phrases will not receive a grade higher than a
Make sure that your quotes make up less than 20% of your word count!
Write at least 1000 words!