English 201
Prompt for Essay #4
Part I (your draft)
Directions: Write an essay that responds analytically to both August Wilson’s play The Piano Lesson and the film adaptation of his play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. You will do this by taking the perspective of a main character (either Berniece or Boy Willie)
from The Piano Lesson and writing about that issue through the lens of how THAT character would view it.
Don’t try to give their perspective on the entire play of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Instead, choose one issue/idea that is explored in the film, and examine how it would look from the perspective of Boy Willier or Berniece.
A few ideas of issues/ideas explored in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (but no need to limit yourself to this list. If there are other issues you see and want to explore choose that):
• Exploitation of Black music/culture by White people
• Ma Rainey’s (and by extension, Black women’s) sexuality, including her
connection with Dussie Mae
• The culture of Blues—the function it serves in Black culture and society
• Money and class status within the Black community
• The role of religious faith in Christianity in the Black community
• The impact of racial violence on Levee, and other Black characters in the film
• Rural versus urban Black cultural forms and expressions
• Discrimination and racism against Black Americans and their effect
• Generational trauma and how it gets passed through from earlier generations
For example, let’s say you want to address Ma Rainey’s sexuality from the perspective of Berniece. What you’d need to do is think through both how Ma’s sexuality is portrayed in the film and how you think, based on your reading of the character of Berniece in The Piano Lesson, she would see that. What would she make of Ma and the way she is sexualized/desexualized (by the music industry) and the way she uses her own power to gain sexual favors from Dussie Mae. How would a character like Berniece see/understand a character like Ma, in regard to her sexuality?
• Your essay can either be written in the third person, about how you think Berniece or Boy Willie would understand the issue OR you can write AS the character of Boy Willie or Berniece, telling an audience how you would view that issue, in their own voice.
• For both options, you’ll want to include a Works Cited page that references both the play and the film, as well as any other sources you used in writing your essay, and in-text citation for direct quotations from the play The Piano Lesson or the screenplay of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
• Give your essay a title, which you should include as the SUBJECT of your Discussion Board post.
• This essay will probably need to weigh in at about two pages, double spaced, to adequately address the topic of your choice (not including the Works Cited page).