The Piano Lesson
by August Wilson
The Piano Lesson Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue.
Boy Willie: "The only thing make that piano worth something is them carvings Papa Willie Boy put on there. […] That was my great-granddaddy. Papa Boy Charles brought that piano into the house. Now, I'm supposed to build on what they left me." (1.2.160)
In Boy Willie's mind, the best way to honor the memory of his father and grandfather is to sell the piano and buy the land where his family was once enslaved. His sister Berniece, on the other hand, sees selling the piano as a betrayal of their memory. Either way you look at it, both siblings are heavily influenced by the family's past.
Avery: "Everybody got stones in their passway. You got to step over them or walk around them. You picking them up and carrying them with you." (2.2.49)
Avery uses the metaphor of carrying stones, when he encourages Berniece to let go of her painful past. He thinks that Berniece is letting the tragedies of her life weigh her down.
Maretha: "Anybody ever see the Ghosts?"
Boy Willie: "I told you they like the wind. Can you see the wind?" (2.5.5-2.5.6)
Berniece, Maretha's mother, refuses to tell her daughter about their family's past. She doesn't want her daughter to carry around the burden of the memory. However, Boy Willie feels like it's his responsibility to tell his niece the family history. He thinks it's important for her to know where she comes from.