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The Piano Lesson

The Piano Lesson


by August Wilson

Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type : Tragedy and Rebirth

The Piano Lesson doesn't seem to fall into any of Booker's basic plots exactly. For the most part, the play is structured like a tragedy. But instead of death and destruction at the end, we have a rebirth. Check out what we mean below:

Anticipation Stage

Boy Willie wants Sutter's land.

The plot of the play becomes clear when Boy Willie declares that he will sell the family's historic piano, so that he can afford to buy the land on which his family was once enslaved.

Dream Stage

Yay, watermelons!

Things are looking good for Boy Willie. He's selling lots of watermelons, he gets laid, and finds the number for the guy who wants to buy the piano.

Frustration Stage

Man, this piano is heavy. Berniece has a gun!

Boy Willie and Lymon try to haul the piano out of the house, but it's crazy heavy. When they get wheels and rope to take it out, Berniece threatens them with a gun.

Nightmare Stage

Sutter's ghost attacks! Dun, Dun DUN!

It looks like Berniece isn't the only one who doesn't want the piano going anywhere. The ghost of Sutter shows up and wreaks havoc.

Destruction or Death Wish Stage

Bernice forces Sutter's ghost out of the house.

The stage is definitely set for death and destruction. Boy Willie is fighting a losing battle against the Sutter's ghost. But then Berniece plays the piano, summoning the spirits of their ancestors to kick Sutter's butt. Though August Wilson follows tragic structure all the way up to here, he tops the play off with the rebirth of Bernice.

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