August Wilson dwells upon a very important issue in his play The Piano Lesson. He tries to find the best answer to the question concerning people’s past and heritage. Eventually, the playwright decides that people should understand, accept and cherish their past to have their future. The answer is manifested in one of the main characters of the play, Berniece.
Berniece has to tackle many problems. The brave woman has to live in a very difficult time. The time of lynching and racial hatred took away the dearest people from her. Of course, the horrible reality made people search for their ways. Africans had to find a way to survive. Some, like Berniece’s brother, wanted to let their past go and accept the new rules.
However, there were people who knew or simply felt that the new rules are no better than the old rules of slavery. As for Berniece, she did not understand this first. She simply felt she could not let her past go as it was the key to her (and her family’s) future. Though some told her to “put the past behind” her, Berniece felt it was wrong (August 71).
The young woman saw that the world outside, which was cruel and unjust, so the only safe place to find could be the family. She understood that it was vital to keep the family together. One of the ways to do it was to accept the family’s past.
Berniece felt she could not give up the piano which was the symbol of their past. She understood it would be a certain kind of betrayal. Remarkably, the woman could not sell the piano as it could mean she sold her ancestors and made them slaves again.
Interestingly, Berniece did not follow the example of many Africans who chose a new type of slavery: sharecropping. Berniece did not want to gain some financial profit at the expense of her (or rather her family’s) freedom. She felt that the way was wrong and it was inappropriate to choose the way offered by Whites.
Berniece was a very wise woman whose heart let her make the right choice. It was not until later she understood why exactly she could not sell the piano. She understood that the history of their family is what they need to preserve and cherish. Berniece accepted her role as the guardian of their heritage. She understood why she had to pass her knowledge to her daughter who was to become the next guardian.
Eventually, Berniece understood that she had to make her family (as well as her people) remember about their past to make them choose the right paths in their future. Thus, Africans struggled to become free people in the nineteenth century, but at the beginning of the twentieth century, they were ready to give up their freedom for some financial benefits.
Berniece was one of those who understood that it was impossible to put up with such disgrace. She was a woman of vision. She foresaw that Africans had enough strength to resist. She made the choice which could inspire (and did inspire) many people, e.g., she inspired even the most skeptical members of her family.
On balance, it is possible to claim that Berniece can be regarded as an inspiring example of what people should do. Berniece understood that the past is the necessary basis for the future, so she learned to cherish it. Likewise, Berniece can inspire contemporary people to choose the right path.
Wilson, August. The Piano Lesson, New York, NY: Plume, 1990. Print.