Comparison of The Piano Lesson and Sonny’s BluesAugust Wilson’s ?The Piano Lesson? and James Baldwin’s ?Sonny’s Blues? explore the values of two families destined for disruption.
?The Piano Lesson? portrays a family split apart over the future of a family heirloom, whereas ?Sonny’s Blues? deals with a brother in need of help. Although each story captures outside interest, psychological problems detracts obtaining individuality. Through conquering a hostile environment and difficulties within his family, man often obtains a true sense of his identity. ?The Piano Lesson? displays a family, attempting to form a common bond of understanding.
Initially, the environment of which the people in the play are raised fabricates conflict, causing them to mold their personas. Doaker frequently sings songs that give directions to specific locations because of his involvement with slavery (55). Boy Willie and everyone else’s belief in the ?Ghosts of the Yellow Dog? signifies the irrational reasoning used in that time period (28). In addition, relationships among friends help create a true sense of ones identity. Constantly ordering Lyman around, Boy Willie detracts from Lyman’s security (84).
Avery feels that Berniece is ?too young a woman to close up,? indicating his concern for others (66). Lastly, family relationships define oneself. Doaker’s impeccable understanding of Berniece’s demeanor illustrates his vast knowledge of people (88). Moreover, people continually speak up for Berniece, forcing her to speak her mind less (98).
As in ?The Piano Lesson,? the people in ?Sonny’s Blues? struggle to form their identity. The environment holds some responsibility for shaping ones’ personality. Sonny’s brother finds himself ?trapped in the darkness which roared outside,? indicating his state of mind after discovering the misfortune of Sonny (97). Sonny’s brother becomes very nervous about what has happened to Sonny, depicting the brother’s sympathetic and caring personality (97).
Furthermore, relationships among friends construct meaningful identities. An old friend of Sonny’s that Sonny’s brother encounters while leaving school shows no faith in Sonny overcoming his troubles which shows no confidence in Sonny (99). Explaining to Sonny’s brother that he ?got a real musician in family,? Sonny’s friend exhibits faith in his partner (118). Most importantly, relationships within the family serve as key factors when forming a sound identity. Whenever dealing with his parents, Sonny ?moves back, inside himself, where he can’t be reached,? illustrating his uncertain feelings towards himself and his parents (104).
Exhibiting a mild sense of responsibility, Sonny acknowledges his problems in a letter to his brother where he states his intentions to rid himself of his wrong doings. ?The Piano Lesson? and ?Sonny’s Blues? portray two confused families in search of who they truly are. The circumstances by which the individuals encounter have similar effects on the two families, bringing about confusion, yet more clearly defining ones personality. Friends of the family in ?The Piano Lesson? provide much confidence in the family. Likewise, Sonny’s friends enhance his identity through experience.
Relationships within the family prove to be of the utmost importance in defining oneself. In both stories, the family either forces one into or out of a shell, either taking away or adding to the identity. Ultimately, in order for one to obtain complete individuality, he or she must subject themselves to every type of situation, good or bad, from which a lesson can be learned.