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The Piano Lesson

The Piano Lesson


by August Wilson

The Piano Lesson Race 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.

Quote #1

Doaker: "Some white fellow was going around to all the colored people's houses looking to buy up musical instruments." (1.1.112)

The piano in many ways represents the Charles family's history of enslavement. When Boy Charles, Boy Willie and Berniece's father, took the piano from Sutter's house, he saw it as symbolically cutting the last ties to slavery. So, if we're following this symbolic train of thought, what might be the significance of selling the piano back to a white person?

Quote #2

Boy Willie: "They treat you like you let them treat you. They mistreat me I mistreat them right back. Ain't no difference in me and the white man." (1.2.85)

Though Boy Willie definitely recognizes all of the racial barriers that existed during this time, he refuses to be a victim. He's determined to fight for equality, no matter what it costs him. In many ways, his determination to buy Sutter's land is a quest to stand on equal footing with "the white man."

Quote #3

Wining Boy: "Now that's the difference between the colored man and the white man. The colored man can't fix nothing with the law." (1.2.86)

Wining Boy sees white people's control of the law as the main advantage they have over black people. He feels like it's really hard for African Americans to get ahead in a country where all the laws were designed by white people who know how to use them to their advantage. This line also calls to mind the racist Jim Crow laws which once stripped many black people of their rights throughout the South.

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