The Piano Lesson

by: August Wilson

Act I, Scene 1—Part II

With all these conflicts over legacy, this scene can only be haunted. Along with the totems staring out at the household, two other ghosts appear explicitly. The Ghosts of the Yellow Dog, the ghosts of Willie and Berniece's murdered father and his hobo companions, and the ghost of Sutter lurking upstairs. Sutter's ghost will literally weighs down on the household throughout the play, having comes to avenge its death or perhaps even reclaim the piano and the family it once owned. A showdown between them seems imminent.

As we will see, unnamed ghosts haunt this scene as well. These ghosts include, for example, the siblings' father or their grandfather and Boy Willie's namesake, Willie Boy and sculptor of the piano. The effects of these ghosts manifest themselves in the ambiguity among the agents and actors of the play, an ambiguity produced in the way the past haunts the present. We are unsure whether the ghosts or Willie kill Sutter. As the argument between Berniece and Willie indicate, it is unclear whether he comes for his murderer or for the piano that records his crimes.