The Piano Lesson
Cultural Trauma Narratives' Use of Supernatural Elements College
Novels that are centered on traumatic events in history have used different tools to access the past. The Piano Lesson by August Wilson is a film (based on a play) that is set during the Great Depression while Octavia Butler’s Kindred is a novel that is set in the 1970s and part of the 19th century. In Kindred, protagonist Dana finds out more about her family’s past and the trauma they went through during slave times. Likewise in The Piano Lesson, siblings Boy Willie and Berniece, along with Berniece’s daughter Maretha, learn the importance of the history of their family’s piano to find out what their ancestors went through during slave times. Both stories are focused on learning, through the use of supernatural elements, about the characters’ ancestors’ traumatic experiences and the importance of family and cultural history. Kindred and The Piano Lesson use elements of the fantastic (i.e. haunting (from ghosts) and time travel) to access the past, because, through these elements, the stories engage and describe things to people from modern or close to modern times in ways they wouldn’t be able to without them, and therefore enhance their understandings of the lingering traumas of past enslavement in the United States.
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