In “The Piano Lesson” by August Wilson, Wilson sets up a unique dichotomy for his characters to explore the differences between traditional African American values and religion and the encroaching nature of American customs and the role that Christianity plays in regional acceptance…
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More, Wilson explores the inherent conflict that a traditional African-American family feels between maintaining their culture and heritage while being forced to succumb to the world of the white man. With that said, a close look will be taken into the archetype Wilson utilizes as a commentary to explore and highlight the conflict of the Charles family and their attempt to maintain their African-American heritage and values in a world of Christianity and white man culture.
To begin with, throughout the works of August Wilson, the “characters are struggling with and wrestling over their ideas of religion and God” (Rudolph 562). With a subtle twist of his internal commentary, Wilson leads his characters into choosing their African-American heritage and traditional religion over the modernity of Christianity because his works run far deeper than to present a mere play. What Wilson is giving his readers is a true glimpse into the heartache and trauma present when trying to survive in a world that has no understanding of the meaning of retaining heritage and family culture. Where America is the melting pot, traditional values and hundred-year-old customs come to die.
Wilson’s words are transcendent and offer for the reader insight into the realm of the actualities of choosing heritage over modern values and the difficulties presented by such a choice. For, to choose heritage over modern values is to isolate both the one and the family from the white man’s world, which seems a backward step for African-Americans as a whole. However, in looking at the big picture that Wilson is presenting, a reader can begin to understand the deep internal conflict that African-Americans deal with, daily, when trying to live in a world that offers values on the extremity of their own. In a way, choosing the white man’s world is giving up, going back to a world where blacks are worth less than whites, where blacks have to give in to the morals and values of the white man to ensure their own survival. And it is in this moment that a reader begins to see the deeper meaning in Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson.” More, it is a lesson that runs so deep it crosses the boundaries of cultures and legacies. Essentially, “The Piano Lesson” is about an artifact in history, a moment in time where a family is given the choice to choose heritage over a life made easier by the values of the white man. But to do so will be giving up everything their family has ever worked towards, or has ever stood for—freedom and the right to exist; more the right to exist with their own personal values intact. Because, only in this manner is the family truly surviving, anything less is to chip away at what their family heritage represents. However, it would be a simple matter to accept Christianity and the tenets of modern American values because “acceptance of one religion resolves the conflict” (Rudolph 562). But Wilson’s characters are unable to make this move because their history means more than the ease they would feel at finally be free from the choice between heritage and modern values. The antagonist of the play, Boy Willie Charles is obsessed with selling the family’s piano to purchase a plot of land and to raise the family’s financial stake in the world. This represents a major problem for the rest of the Charles family because they believe the piano is the central piece in the family’s religion, that to sell it would represent a sweeping denouncement of the family legacy for a measly parcel of land. Boy Willie’s drive for financial gain is twisted by his need to survive in a modern
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10 Pages(2500 words)Research Paper
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