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The Piano Lesson


Act II, Scenes 1 and 2

Summary Act II, Scenes 1 and 2


Scene 1

The following morning, Doaker appears ironing his pants while singing a song about the railroad. Wining Boy enters with a suit he has failed to pawn. Berniece is out cleaning a house, and Boy Willie and Lymon are selling their watermelons. Doaker remarks that Maretha is now scared to sleep upstairs. Though he did not tell Berniece, he admits to his brother that he saw Sutter's ghost three weeks ago, playing the piano. He thinks his niece should get rid of the heirloom. Wining Boy disagrees and then asks his brother to lend him some money.

Boy Willie and Lymon enter, having fast-talked their watermelons off on the local whites. Shrewdly, Wining Boy sells his suit and a pair of shoes to Lymon, promising that it has a magical effect on the ladies. Lymon and Boy Willie plan to go out the local picture show and find some women.

Wining Boy remarks that Lymon is as crazy about women as his father was. He recounts how he once helped bail his father—L.D. Jackson, described as "one bad-luck nigger"—out of jail after he was arrested for fighting with a white youth. In return, Lymon's mother invited Wining Boy over for a night.

Declining Wining Boy's invitation to a game of cards, the young men prepare to go out. Wining Boy coaches Lymon on pick-up lines: "If you got the harbor, I got the ship."

Scene two

Later that evening, Berniece appears preparing a tub for her bath. Avery enters and he has gotten his loan. Hesitantly, he proposes to Berniece anew, declaring that she is too young to "close up." Berniece retorts that she still has "a lot of woman" in her and is occupied with Maretha. Avery replies that she cannot continue carrying Crawley with her.

Changing the subject, Berniece asks Avery to bless the house in hopes of exorcising Sutter's ghost. She remains convinced that Boy Willie killed him. Avery, on the other hand, believes in the Ghosts of Yellow Dog, recalling a preacher who used to describe them as the hand of God. Berniece continues her lament, complaining that Doaker blames himself for Boy Charles' death and has washed his hands of the piano and that Boy Willie has been a problem since he was a little rebellious boy, just like his father.