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The Piano Lesson

The Piano Lesson


by August Wilson

The Piano Lesson Theme of The Supernatural

The Piano Lesson is in many ways a straight-up ghost story. The Charles family is being haunted by the ghost of Sutter, whose family once owned theirs. Of course, the Charles family has a few ghosts on their side as well. First, there are the Ghosts of the Yellow Dog, who may well have killed Sutter in the first place. At the play's climax, the Ghosts of Yellow Dog return and, with the help of the spirits of the Charles family's ancestors, give Sutter's ghost the boot. All these literal ghosts haunting the play also have a symbolic meaning. The battle that happens between the ghost of Sutter and the African-American ghosts seems to represent the struggle for racial equality that blacks faced in the time of slavery and today.

Questions About The Supernatural

  1. List all the different ghosts haunting The Piano Lesson.
  2. In what ways do the characters speak to the dead throughout the play?
  3. What is the larger symbolism of each ghost in The Piano Lesson?
  4. In the world of The Piano Lesson, what is the difference when a character chooses to use the word "spirit" over the word "ghost"?

Chew on This

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

Though Crawley isn't depicted as a literal ghost, he haunts Berniece just the same.

Sutter's ghost is symbolic of America's shameful history of slavery.

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