Slave Narrative in The Piano Lesson by Wilson
Devon Boan suggests that Wilson’s plays were more thematic than theatrical, as they were centered on the reconstruction of the blacks by challenging the history represented by the dominant culture, the white supremacists. The Piano Lesson by Wilson essays the communal and familial historical slave legacy, and calls for a response of a question that how should one utilize the past?
The parallel antebellum slave narratives runs between a brother and a sister, Boy Willie and Berniece, who have differing views pertaining history. Boy Willie has pragmatic views as he is stuck in a cyclone of a literal and a metaphorical slave narrative from which he desperately needs a flight to freedom. He is in a pursuit of self-realization, and his success is dependent upon the abolishment of the family’s slave narrative. There is an ongoing struggle of myth and reality between the sibling’s views. Their views are a form of a call and response structure, as their narratives are linear, yet evolutionary. It is pertinent for the “survivor” Boy Willie to improvise the economic and social conditions of the family, but for that the family myth must be dismantled. There is another dichotomy present between the past and the present. The identity crisis is intertwined with the past, yet it is equally important to dismantle the past to escape from the restless wandering in the present.
There are three phases of a slave narrative, the eclectic which requires an affidavit, the integrated which requires validation through oral traditions, and the generic phase. Berience is going through the integrated phase where she integrates her identity with the past, whereas Boy Willie is experiencing the generic phase, as for him the narrative stands on its own. It is evident that for Berniece, past matters more than the present, yet we see it as an example of selective reverence, as during the final showdown, she desperately wants Boy Willie to kill Sutter’s ghost, which could be symbolized as the white supremacy. On the contrary, Boy Willie pragmatic self realizes that he doesn’t want to be a runaway slave. Therefore, he chooses not to get stuck in the call and response cycle, but sing and create his own song of identity, choice and freedom.
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Devon Boan suggests that Wilson’s plays were more thematic than theatrical, as they were centered on the reconstruction of the blacks by challenging the history represented by the dominant culture, […]