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The Piano Lesson

The Piano Lesson

by August Wilson

Rules and Order Theme

The Piano Lesson in many ways questions the law. On a whole, the play seems to highlight the way in which America's legal system has a history of injustice. For example, slavery was once legal, and during the time in which the play is set (1930s) the racist Jim Crow laws still discriminated against blacks, especially in the South. The play seems to ask whether it really is wrong for a person to break a law in a system that is inherently unjust. Is it wrong for a person to steal if the system they were born into is set up to keep them poor? These and other issues of ownership come up constantly throughout The Piano Lesson, and many of them which swirl around the title piano.

Questions About Rules and Order

  1. Is breaking the law always wrong? Why, or why not?
  2. Was it theft when Boy Charles, Doaker, and Wining Boy took the piano from Sutter's house? Or were they just claiming what was rightfully theirs?
  3. Who truly owns the piano? How is ownership determined?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The Piano Lesson highlights ways in which the law was biased toward white people.

The play shows that sometimes breaking the law is an act of resistance rather than a crime.

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