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English Literature

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Amany Abdel Sabour Professor I. A. Abdel Ghani Contemporary American Literature 1 January 2008 August Wilson; A True Chronicler of Afro-American History, With special reference to "The Piano Lesson" August Wilson (April 27, 1945-October 2, 2005) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright, and he is one of seven American playwrights to win two Pulitzer prizes. He is America's finest black dramatist, whose plays chronicled the lives of Afro-Americans through the 20th century. His "singular achievement and literary legacy is a cycle of ten plays-two of which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama-dubbed 'The Pittsburgh Cycle' "(August Wilson,Wikipedia), through which Wilson is depicting the comedy and tragedy of the African-American experience in the 20th century. This cycle of plays, which is the main focus in this paper, is also referred to as his "Century Cycle" for which he will be remembered - each play, is set in a different decade of the 20th century, and each is chronicling a particular aspect of Afro-American history - as don Adams says ,"combines subtlety and weight, humor, pathos and a profound sympathy for small, seemingly insignificant people trapped by forces they seldom understand and usually are powerless to resist, let alone overcome" (Adams). The acclaimed cycle embraces ten plays. In decade order the plays are: * 1900s - Gem of the Ocean (2003) * 1910s - Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1984) * 1920s - Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1982) - set in Chicago * 1930s - The Piano Lesson (1989) - Pulitzer Prize * 1940s - Seven Guitars (1995) * 1950s - Fences (1985) - Pulitzer Prize * 1960s - Two Trains Running (1990) * 1970s - Jitney (1983) * 1980s - King Hedley II (2001) * 1990s - Radio Golf (2005) August Wilson" was not only the finest black dramatist" the United States of America has produced "but a dramatist whom posterity may well rate alongside Eugene O'Neill and Arthur Miller as one of his nation's most important"(,August Wilson, Times online). ...read more.

Middle

Sutter's wife initially loved the piano, but later came to miss her slaves and fall desperately ill. So, Sutter asked Doaker's grandfather to crave the faces of his wife and child into the piano. Willie Boy craved his family immediately and included his mother, father and various scenes from the family's history. Years after years, Berniece and Willie's father Boy Charles, developed an obsession over the piano, believing that as long as the Sutters held it, they held the family in bondage. Thus, on July 4, 1911, he, Doaker, and Wining Boy stole it. Later that day, lynchers set Boy Charles's house on fire. He fled to catch the Yellow Dog, but the mob stopped the train and set his boxcar on fire. Boy Charles died along with the hobos in his car, all of whom became the ghosts of the railroad. Willie and Lymon attempt to move the piano. Berniece enters and commands Willie to stop, since the piano is their legacy. Berniece invokes the memory of their mother, who attended to the piano until the day she died. She attacks Boy Willie for perpetuating the endless theft and murder in their family, blaming him for the death of her husband. Suddenly, Maretha, Berniece's daughter, is heard screaming upstairs in terror, as Sutter's ghost has appeared again. Later that evening, Avery enters and proposes to Berniece anew. Berniece asks Avery to bless the house in hopes of exorcising Sutter's ghost. Avery suggests that she use the piano at his church. Berniece replies that she leaves the piano untouched to keep from waking its spirits. Willie enters and they argue anew and Willie invokes the memory of his father, arguing that he only plans to do as he might have done. Willie and Lymon begin to move the piano. Berniece exits and reappears with Crawley's gun. Avery moves to bless the piano. Boy Willie intercedes, taunting Sutter as Avery attempts his exorcism. He charges up the stairs, and an unseen force drives him back. ...read more.

Conclusion

of commitment to the cause of black America - which is to allow black men and women to tell American history, a history that, so far, whites have mostly told" (Bissiri). His recurrent message to the Afro-Americans instigates them to have self-assurance and self-confidence, and to be proud of their history and culture, and to stick to it firmly. He assures that they are not sub-humans. They have abilities and faculties which are equivalent to the white-Americans, yet they have not the same culture or history, that is why they have different ideologies and identities. His only aims at the recognition of his Afro-American identity, so that both Americans can co-exist. He seeks ...- acceptance of the fact that Afro-American mythology is not "strange," but "a common, natural part of life"; he seeks acknowledgment of African Americans' link to Africa. Wilson obviously denies the assumption that slavery exterminated African culture. Despite the long and painful historical separation, there remains an African sensibility among African Americans. Wilson consciously seeks to integrate this sensibility and all else that stems from African culture into his plays. (Bissiri). The Pulitzer prize-winning playwright August Wilson was influenced by many writers, Amiri Baraka was one of them. He likes to say his work is inspired by the four Bs: Writers Amiri Baraka and Jorge Luis Borges, painter Romare Bearden who inspired Wilson to write The Piano Lesson after seeing his painting, and the blues. At the age of sixty, Wilson died of liver cancer that was inoperable; leaving a rich legacy of plays that is regarded as a spokesman of the Afro-Americans forever. He aptly managed to fend for his people through the Pittsburgh cycle of plays, and to prove that they have their own distinctive heritage and culture that distinguishes them from white-Americans, so as not make them like sheep that follow the flock. They have their own African identity of which they should be proud. So August Wilson was a true and objective chronicler of the African-American history. ...read more.

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