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: "Uncle Doaker tell me your mama got you playing that piano." (1.1.208)
It's interesting that Berniece encourages her daughter, Maretha, to play on the piano, while she herself doesn't. Perhaps, even though Berniece is trying to lay the spirits of the piano to rest, some part of her wants to stay connected to them. It could be that she's in some ways living vicariously through her daughter.
Doaker: "See, now […] to understand about that piano…you got to go back to slavery time." (1.2.111)
Doaker launches into a big long monologue to explain the history of the piano. After he's done we finally know what all the fuss has been about. It becomes clear by the end of Doaker's story just how much the Charles family's past hovers over them.
Doaker: "Now…am I telling it right, Wining Boy?
Wining Boy: "You telling it." (1.2.116)
Doaker and Wining Boy are the oldest characters in the play. They both function as living history books, who pass on the family's past through storytelling. The storyteller has been an important role in many cultures, but in many African cultures this person was called a griot. It was the griot's job to preserve the history of a community through song and storytelling. So, you can see both Doaker and Wining Boy are kind of like 1930ss era African American versions of this ancient occupation. Click here to learn more about griots.