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The Piano Lesson

The Piano Lesson


August Wilson

The Piano Lesson Act 2, Scene 5 Summary

  • Lights rise on the living room.
  • Boy Willie sits on the couch, screwing wheels to a board.
  • Maretha sits at the piano, and Doaker sits at a table, playing solitaire.
  • Boy Willie tells his little niece all about the Ghosts of the Yellow Dog.
  • Berniece enters through the front door.
  • She tells Boy Willie again to leave her house.
  • Next, Berniece orders Maretha to go upstairs and get ready for Berniece to do her hair.
  • Maretha is scared to go upstairs by herself, so Boy Willie goes with her, saying he'll beat up Sutter's ghost if they run into him.
  • Doaker tells Berniece that Boy Willie is planning to use the wheels and board to take the piano out of the house.
  • "I ain't playing with Boy Willie," says Berniece, "I got Crawley's gun upstairs" (2.5.13).
  • Boy Willie and Maretha come back down stairs.
  • Maretha has a comb and some hair grease. Apparently, it's not enough hair grease, though, so Berniece sends her to the store to get more.
  • Berniece tells Boy Willie to leave again.
  • He says it's Doaker's house, and he doesn't have to leave unless Doaker says so.
  • Berniece asks Doaker to tell Boy Willie to leave.
  • Doaker says Boy Willie hasn't done anything to get kicked out for and that Boy Willie and Berniece ought to just ignore each other if they can't get along.
  • Boy Willie informs Berniece that, as soon as Lymon comes back with the rope, they're going to take the piano.
  • Berniece threatens Boy Willie, hinting that she's got a gun.
  • Boy Willie says he isn't afraid to die.
  • He tells a story about a puppy he once had that died.
  • He prayed to Jesus to bring the puppy back to life, but the dog stayed dead.
  • So, Boy Willie went out and killed a cat.
  • Boy Willie that that was when he "discovered the power of death" (2.5.29).
  • He says that the white man doesn't know how to handle a black man who isn't afraid to die.
  • Berniece dismisses everything Boy Willie just said.
  • Doaker tries to change the subject and brings up that Avery is coming by to bless the house.
  • Boy Willie says that churches are full of ghosts.
  • Maretha comes back with the hair grease.
  • Berniece tells her to put the comb on the stove to heat it up.
  • "The Bible say an eye for eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a life," says Boy Willie. He says if she and Avery don't believe in that, then they only believe in half of the Bible.
  • Berniece just ignores him, continuing to do Maretha's hair.
  • Maretha cries out when Berniece accidentally burns her.
  • "Be still, Maretha," says Berniece, "If you was a boy, I wouldn't be going through all this" (2.5.40).
  • Boy Willie criticizes his sister for saying that to Maretha.
  • Berniece tells him to mind his own business.
  • Boy Willie also criticizes her for not telling Maretha the history of the piano.
  • His sister tells him that, when he has a child, he can raise it the way he wants.
  • Boy Willie says that Berniece is teaching Maretha to "live on the bottom of life" (2.5.54). Berniece thinks she's just showing her daughter reality.
  • Boy Willie launches into a big long monologue about how he's just trying to make his mark on the world; that's why he has to sell the piano and get Sutter's land.
  • Avery enters.
  • Boy Willie asks him if a person can get into heaven with half a Bible.
  • "You got to be born again," says Avery (2.5.64).
  • Boy Willie taunts Berniece some more, saying she won't get to Heaven.
  • Doaker tells Avery that Boy Willie and Berniece have been arguing all day.
  • Avery talks about how his meeting at the bank went well; he just might get the loan for his church.
  • Doaker says that Avery and Berniece ought to get married when that happens.
  • She says she's only thinking about it.
  • Doaker asks Avery if he's come by to bless the house.
  • The preacher says he's read up on it, and he's ready to try it out.
  • Boy Willie says there isn't a ghost and that it's all in Berniece's head.
  • Doaker fusses at Boy Willie, telling him to be quiet.
  • "God got the power! […] I ain't worried about him chasing away a little old ghost!" Avery preaches to them all (2.5.89).
  • Lymon shows up; he's been out getting a drink with Grace.
  • He and Boy Willie try to lift the piano onto the board with wheels.
  • Berniece goes upstairs and comes back down with Crawley's gun.
  • Avery urges them both to sit down and talk about it. Doaker agrees.
  • Lymon can't decide what to do at first, but then he tells Boy Willie, "I might be wrong...but I figure she gonna shoot you first" (2.5.117).
  • Boy Willie doesn't care if she does.
  • Berniece tells Maretha to go into Doaker's room.
  • She does.
  • Suddenly, Winging Boy stumbles through the front door.
  • He's really drunk and doesn't realize what's going on.
  • Boy Willie and Lymon keep trying to move the piano.
  • Wining Boy keeps begging everybody to give him a drink.
  • They tell him he's drunk enough, and it's time to lie down.
  • He says he's not tired, and he wants to party.
  • Wining Boy sits down at the piano to play.
  • Boy Willie orders him to move.
  • "Wait a minute…wait a minute. This a song I wrote for Cleotha," Wining Boy says and starts to play.
  • Boy Willie waits impatiently until the song is over and then tells Wining Boy to move again.
  • Wining Boy throws his arms across the piano and says they'll have to take him with the piano if they want to move it.
  • There's a knock at the door. Doaker opens it to reveal Grace.
  • She's been waiting in the truck for Lymon.
  • Berniece tell Lymon that he's got to take Grace somewhere else.
  • Grace complains that they were supposed to be going to a movie.
  • Lymon says he's got to help move the piano first.
  • Stage directions tell us, "Everybody but Grace suddenly senses Sutter's presence" (2.5.178).
  • Grace whines that Lymon is just like all the other men.
  • Suddenly, says she senses Sutter's ghost, too.
  • She gets all freaked out and runs outside. Lymon chases after her.
  • Boy Willie calls for Lymon to come back.
  • Everybody feels Sutter's presence again.
  • Wining Boy asks if anybody else just got cold. He says he thinks Sutter is upstairs.
  • Berniece tells Avery to go ahead and bless the house.
  • Doaker tells him he ought to bless the piano; it's the cause of all the problems.
  • Avery takes a bottle of holy water from his pocket.
  • He lights a candle, gives it to Berniece, and tells her not to let it go out.
  • Avery starts praying to God to banish Satan.
  • His prayers escalate, and he throws water on the piano.
  • Mockingly, Boy Willie grabs water from the stove and starts throwing around.
  • He yells for Sutter to leave.
  • Boy Willie works himself into a frenzy and runs upstairs.
  • The sound of Sutter's ghost is heard, and Boy Willie is thrown down the stairs by an invisible force.
  • "Come on, Sutter!" screams Boy Willie and he runs back up the stairs (2.5.200).
  • Avery continues to pray.
  • We hear the crashing sounds of Boy Willie wrestling with Sutter's ghost.
  • He's thrown down the stairs again, but just runs back up.
  • "I can't do it, Berniece," says Avery.
  • Suddenly, Berniece realizes what she has to do.
  • She runs to the piano and starts to play.
  • "I want you to help me," she sings, calling on her ancestors. She sings for help over and over again.
  • Finally, the sound of a train is heard.
  • The sounds of Boy Willie's struggle with Sutter stop.
  • We hear Boy Willie calling for Sutter to come back.
  • Berniece continues to play, singing, "Thank you" (2.5.206).
  • Boy Willie enters and watches Berniece play for a moment.
  • He asks Doaker when the next train leaves.
  • Doaker says he still has time to make it.
  • Maretha crosses and gives Boy Willie a hug.
  • "Hey Berniece," says Boy Willie, "If you and Maretha don't keep playing on that piano…ain't no telling…me and Sutter both liable to be back" (2.5.210).
  • Boy Willie exits.
  • "Thank you," says Berniece (2.5.211).

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