An Analysis of the Protagonists’ Psychology in The Piano Lesson from the Perspective of Triple Personality Structure Theory

August Wilson, The Piano Lesson, Freud, triple personality structure


  • Xiaoxiao Liu
    Postgraduate Student of College of Foreign Studies, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China
October 22, 2022


The Piano Lesson is one of the masterpieces of the famous American playwright August Wilson. This play presents an argument between a sister and brother over whether to sell the family heirloom: a piano, revealing the different attitudes of African Americans toward their history and culture. Focusing on domestic and foreign research perspectives, the author finds that most experts and scholars explore this play in terms of African American identity and ghost images, while few analyze the conflict and reconciliation between the siblings from the perspective of psychoanalysis. This paper focuses on the protagonists’ psychology and explores the inner journey of the siblings from Freud’s triple personality structure theory. The findings show that there is a relationship between their psychological changes and the rationality of the final ownership of the piano in the play, and then reveal that Wilson conveys his attitude toward the cultural heritage of ethnic minorities through the psychological changes of these two main characters, thus provoking thoughts on the heritage of minority cultures. This paper contributes to shedding more light on the nature of the argument between two main characters, Berniece and Boy Willie, and enhancing our understanding of the deep meaning of this play.