Analysis Of August Wilson's The Piano Lesson

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A famous Harlem Renaissance poet by the name of Claude McKay once described African Americans as “despised, oppressed, enslaved and lynched, denied a human place in the great life line of the Christian West” (McKay). While McKay was correct in saying that African Americans during the post-Reconstruction era of the 1880s to the 1930s experienced discrimination, their social standing still increased significantly. After the abolishment of slavery, African Americans anticipated social growth and a chance at The American Dream, the promise of prosperity to those who worked diligently. The South did not hold many opportunities for African Americans besides sharecropping, so many moved to the North during the Great Migration. The Piano Lesson, a …show more content…
Characters throughout the play such as Avery, an African American with a reliable source of income, and Boy Willie, a resourceful African American who strives to be a landowner, serve as examples of social progression due to various opportunities they receive throughout the story. Although August Wilson 's play, The Piano Lesson, depicts some social setbacks for African Americans during the post-Reconstruction era, education, income, and land ownership pushed for progress that furthered their social equality in America. The Piano Lesson accurately delineates how even with discrimination, African Americans experience social progress due to new opportunities for jobs and education. Avery, an aspiring preacher, shares in The Piano Lesson that with his job running an elevator he gets “a pension and everything. They even give [him] turkey on Thanksgiving” (Wilson 23). Social progress for African Americans came gradually, and many became successful like Avery, who had a stable job, by getting industrial jobs in the North away from the more agricultural jobs in the South. Receiving a turkey on Thanksgiving symbolizes the better treatment of African Americans during the 1930s. At this point of post-Reconstruction, African …show more content…
Boy Willie, the protagonist in The Piano Lesson, discusses his aspiration to own the land his family was once enslaved on, and claims his plan is to “get [his] deed and walk out. This time [he gets] to keep all the cotton. Hire some men to work it for [him]” (Wilson 10). To have the ability to purchase that land and hire a workforce to farm for him was a large step forward for the African American community. This evolution from slave to land owner symbolizes the social progress African Americans were able to make as a race. Despite the many who were doing well in this new America, there were still some who were struggling, such as de facto serfs who worked in fear because their “landowners [told] them if they move[d] off his land he [would] have them put in jail or [he] threatened bodily harm” (Freedom). This adversity was essentially slavery by another name and it resulted in the fear and suffering of many African American people. The sense of superiority the white Americans thought they had over African Americans made it difficult for African American people to grow in society. Nevertheless, there were still African Americans who were able to find their place in society the way Boy Willie planned

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