Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
You can practically hear the funky grooves in Dicey’s Song. From Bach on the piano to The Grateful Dead on the guitar, music fills up these pages. Jeff tries to win Dicey’s affections by serenading her after school, while Maybeth throws down a few scales and then whips out the Bach a few weeks later.
Maybeth and the Piano
There are lots of great things about Gram’s house, but the fact that she has a piano is a major one. After an unsuccessful attempt to help Maybeth with her math homework, Dicey watches as "Maybeth went right to the battered upright piano and picked out the tune she had been singing in the kitchen. She searched for notes that harmonized with the melody lines" (1.133). Eventually Dicey realizes that just as she has the boat to claim as her own jam, Maybeth’s got the beat.
The piano also brings Mr. Lingerle, a.k.a. The Future Honorary Tillerman, into the story. In nurturing Maybeth’s talent, Mr. Lingerle finds a way to overcome his own loneliness. And in nurturing Mr. Lingerle (all those dinners sounded awesome, didn’t they?), Gram finds a way to overcome hers. Okay, she might not be so lonely now, what with the four extra kids in her life, but she and Mr. Lingerle learn to accept new friends as they foster Maybeth's mad skills.
Jeff and his Guitar
Then we have the scene in which Jeff brings his guitar and he and Mina join Maybeth and sing a poignant song. Mina’s already told Dicey that the reason she wants to be Dicey’s friend is their mutual weirdness. So when she and Jeff strike up a little, "Someone beckons me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world, any mo-ore" (8.362), we see that Mina really does get it. And we have a feeling Jeff does too, since we don’t exactly see an entourage gathered around him when he plays guitar after school. All three of these friends our outcasts in one way or another, but together, they've found a home. Oh, that piano—Tillermans have major epiphanies around it.