August Wilson's use of symbolism is an important and effective method of storytelling in The Piano Lesson. Symbolism is a technique used by writers to associate one object or idea with another. This technique is essential in The Piano Lesson due to the small-scale, rural environment in which the story is told. Important thoughts and ideas that Wilson is trying to portray about African-American society could never be expressed without symbolism, due to this small setting. There are many examples of symbolism in The Piano Lesson, but one can get a good idea of the importance of this technique by exploring some of the more prevalent ones. The most recognizable symbol throughout the story is the piano that the family owns. Another important symbol is the "magic" suit that Wining Boy supplies Lymon with. Next, we can examine the character of Boy Willie, a person whom represents an attitude that transcends over time. Finally, we can look at the character of Avery, a man meant to represent yet another specific attitude. Through these symbols (and many others,) Wilson is able to tell his story more effectively. The piano itself is the most important symbol throughout the entire story. This piano has multiple purposes throughout its history, the first being its acting as a symbol of the low value attributed to a slave. Doaker says "so he asked Mr. Nolander to see if maybe he could trade off some of his niggers for that piano," (42) which basically shows what little value was placed on a slave. Sutter "ain't had no money" (42) as Doaker acknowledges, "but he had some niggers." (42) The piano itself has become a symbol for what little value the slaves hold now. These slaves are now being treated as dollar amounts, as parts that are interchangeable for an object. These slaves are used to "buy" the piano from Mr. Nolander.
Eventually, the piano is in the hands of this family that the story revolves around. This piano has become a symbol for the history of...
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