Text analysis of the short story Piano by William Saroyan
Piano by William Saroyan
Saroyan, William (1908–1981) was a successful playwright. The eccentric, spirited author was born in Fresno, California, where his Armenian parents were fruit farmers and where he worked at odd jobs before gaining fame as a short‐story writer. He came to playgoers' attention with My Heart's in the Highlands but became famous with his much lauded The Time of Your Life , which won the Pulitzer Prize, although Saroyan noisily rejected it. His later works included Love's Old Sweet Song (1940); The Beautiful People; Across the Board on Tomorrow Morning and Talking to You ; Hello, Out There; Get Away Old Man; and The Cave Dwellers. Wolcott Gibbs called the writer “the most completely undisciplined talent in American letters,” and Brooks Atkinson, in a preface to Saroyan's published plays, noted, “When he writes out of general relish, usually in isolated scenes, [he] is at his best and made a definite contribution to the mood of these times, [but] when he permits himself to discuss ideas he can write some of the worst nonsense that ever clattered out of a typewriter.” As in most of his stories, William Saroyan presents, in Piano, a casual episode of the common life. The narrative, descriptive and dialogical sequences form together a perfect technique of rendering the content in a captivating way. The work of non-fiction is characterized by the presence of a covert narrator, who keeps to a more or less neutral voice and a fixed focalization. Thus, the third-person narrative creates the impression of objectivity in an attempt of seeming more trustworthy for the readers. saroyan piano documentary life The main narrative code employed is the documentary one, which reproduces a true-to life situation, involving the reader in a vital issue. Thus, by reading the story, one is a spectator of Ben and Emma’s walk and conversations, the young man’s short performance in a shop, and their genuine regret of the fact that he cannot buy a piano, despite his natural talent of playing. The simplicity of the plot centers the reader’s attention to the main themes explored by the author, like talent, poverty and hope. These seem to stand for the three stages of the short story, which present the process of discovering the young man’s personality through the eyes of Emma. Therefore, at the very beginning, she becomes aware of his gift of playing the piano, then she realizes his inability of accomplishing his dream and buy a piano, and finally, she expresses her optimism stating that one day he will be able to purchase the object of his passion. The story follows a straight-line narrative, in which the elements of the plot uncover the events arranged in a chronological order, and significant elements of flashback. In order to grasp the reader’s attention, the author begins with an unconventional exposition consisting of a dialogue. The two characters involved pass by a store. Ben is attracted by a piano and he asks for Emma’s accord to get in and try a small piano in the corner. From the very beginning, his passion for music becomes obvious: I get excited every time I see a piano. This indirect way of expressing the idea denotes the fact that this sort of feeling is inexplicable to the protagonist himself and his further reply confirms it: I don’t know. The small piano in the corner is a symbol of Ben’s modesty, and the hidden, mysterious aspect of his talent is marked by the place-in the corner. Emma was unaware of this likeness, so she becomes puzzled, facing an inner conflict: She’d go along for a while thinking she knew him and then all of a sudden she’d know she didn’t. The repetition of the question Can you play? emphasizes the girl’s interest in understanding the young man. Ben replies negatively, but his actions contradict his statement, as shown in the simile his hands go quietly to the...
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