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The Piano Lesson
by August Wilson
The Piano Lesson Act 2, Scene 2 Summary
Lights come up on the kitchen. Berniece pours water in a tub for her bath. There's a knock at the door. Berniece lets Avery inside. He notes that the all the watermelons are almost sold. She asks Avery if Mr. Cohen is going to let him rent from him. Avery says yes and that he talked him down to 30 dollars a month. Berniece comments that the place Avery is going to rent is nice. Ever so smoothly, Avery says, "I be at home and I get to thinking you up here and I'm down there. I get to thinking how that look to have a preacher that ain't married" (2.2.11). Berniece tries to avoid his proposal. Avery keeps going though; he talks about how he loves her, and that they ought to be together. "I ain't ready to get married right now," says Berniece (2.2.14). He tells her she's too young "to close up" (2.2.15). Berniece replies, "I got a lot of woman left in me" (2.2.16). Rudely, Avery says, "Where's it at? When's the last time you looked at it?" (2.2.18). She is really offended by this and says that preachers shouldn't talk like that. Berniece says Maretha is enough for her to have to "love and take care of" right now (2.2.20). Avery tells her that she pushes everybody away. She goes off on him, saying that a woman doesn't always have to have a man. He says she's got to stop blaming everybody. Avery tells her that she's got to let go of Crawley's death. He adds that he doesn't know how much longer he'll wait for her. Berniece tells him that, once he gets his church going, they'll talk about this again. Right now, she's just too stressed out, what with the Boy Willie/piano conflict, on top of Sutter's ghost hanging out in the house. Hey, here's an idea, says Berniece, why don't you bless that house and banish the ghost? Avery isn't sure that he should mess around with that; he thinks you have to be a special kind of preacher for that. Bernice says she thinks Boy Willie pushed Sutter down the well and that's why the ghost is hanging around. She hopes that when her brother leaves the ghost will too. Avery points out that the Ghosts of the Yellow Dog have been pushing people down wells for at while. Berniece doesn't believe it; she thinks somebody is doing it and blaming it on the ghosts. Avery says that the Ghosts might be the hand of god. Berniece says again that she thinks Boy Willie pushed Sutter, so that he could get his land. They start talking about the piano. Avery tells her that she ought to start a choir at the church, using the piano. That way Boy Willie will see that it's being used. Berniece says she refuses to play on the piano anymore. Her mother used to make her play on it all the time; "when I played it she could hear my daddy talking to her," says Berniece (2.2.46). Berniece adds that she used to think that the pictures on the piano came alive and walked around at night. She tells Avery that she doesn't want to play on the piano because she doesn't want to wake up the spirits. Berniece talks about how she has Maretha playing on the piano, but that she doesn't want her daughter to have to carry the weight of the family history around. Avery tells her that she has let go of all that just like she needs to let go of Crawley's death. He opens the lid to the piano and encourages her to play. He says that God's strength will help her. She refuses. He tries harder to convince her, but she just won't do it. Avery says that he'll come by tomorrow and bless the house; she'll see the power of the Lord when he casts out Sutter's ghost.
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