"But then I ask the question: How many men must die before we can really have a free and true and peaceful society?How long will it take?If we can catch the spirit, and the true meaning of this experience, I believe that this nation can be transformed into a society of love, of justice, peace, and brotherhood where all men can really be brothers." -Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Since the beginning of early civilization, differences in races and cultures have been a part of society. Along with these differences, there evolved a hatred against what was not considered " the norm" . For many years, prejudice, especially in the form of racism, has sparked many hate crimes and wars.
Over generations, people have devised strategies to combat these injustices in the most effective way possible, whether it be civil or violent ways of protest. August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, ;quot; The Piano;quot;, is set in the early 1930s at a time when racism was spreading like wild fire. The play takes a close look into two dynamically different approaches to overcoming prejudice in America. Although their strategies differ greatly, both Berniece and Boy Willie both find ways to combat the problems associated with living in a racist culture. Slavery is still fresh in the minds of many blacks and whites during the 30s and so are many harsh feelings.
Berniece and Boy Willie tackle the racism of their time in the same way their parents did. Bernice’s personality is very similar to her mother’s, Mama Ola. She chooses to avoid conflicts over racism whenever possible, even if it means keeping quiet about subjects that should be addressed. She finds it easier to ;quot; lay low;quot; than to create a situation.
Berniece views the history of the piano with the same disdain and sorrow that her mother held for so many years. In one of many heated arguments with Boy Willie, Berniece says, ;quot; Mama Ola polished over this piano with her tears for seventeen years…seventeen years worth of cold nights and an empty bed.
For what a piano?…To get even with somebody…
.and what did it ever lead to? more killing and more thieving.;quot; When Boy Willie speaks, one can almost hear the vigor and determination of his father, Papa Boy Charles’ voice. He, much like his father, believes in the theory: "by whatever means necessary." Boy Willie is willing to do whatever it takes and remove whoever stands in his way; and that includes getting rid of any white man that poses a threat against his dreams. Boy Willie is very proud that his father gave his life to steal the piano, with the carvings of his family’s history, from Sutter, the man who enslaved his great grandmother and his grandfather.
Papa Boy Charles believed that his family would always be slaves as long as Sutter still had ownership of the piano. Boy Willie tells Berniece that she should tell her daughter, Maretha, about the story behind the piano so that she can be proud of her grandfather. ;quot;You ought to mark down on the calendar the day that Papa Boy Charles brought that piano into the house..
.throw a party…have a celebration.
;quot; Although their points of view are similar to their parents, they are very opposed in their strategies for dealing with racism. At a time when racism is at its peak due to unresolved issues on both sides, the future for blacks in America seems bleak. Although slavery has ended, brutal attacks against blacks still exist and many are worse off financially than they were as slaves. Berniece looks at her lifestyle from a realist’s point of view with little optimism. She sees no chance of growth for blacks and expresses this when she says, " I’m going to tell her Maretha the truth.
..you at the bottom with the rest of us…
that’s just where she living." Berneice believes that blacks are at the bottom of life and they may never overcome their situation. Although she believes that blacks can find success; she feels that successs is limited to the boundaries in which blacks are born.
She follows the idea that some blacks refer to as