August Wilson’s Seven Guitars is a play that explores the lives of seven African American characters in Pittsburgh during the 1940s. Through their stories, Wilson delves into themes of love, betrayal, and the pursuit of the American Dream. In this article, we will analyze the play from a literary perspective, examining its structure, themes, and characters to gain a deeper understanding of Wilson’s work and its significance in American literature.
Background of August Wilson and Seven Guitars
August Wilson was an American playwright known for his ten-play cycle, The Pittsburgh Cycle, which chronicles the African American experience throughout the 20th century. Seven Guitars is the seventh play in the cycle and was first performed in 1995. The play is set in Pittsburgh in 1948 and follows the story of seven characters, all of whom are struggling to make a living as musicians. Wilson’s plays are known for their poetic language, vivid characters, and exploration of themes such as race, identity, and the American Dream. Seven Guitars is no exception, as it delves into the complexities of the African American experience during a time of great change and upheaval. Through his characters, Wilson explores the themes of love, betrayal, and the struggle for success in a society that is often hostile to those who are different. As we delve deeper into the play, we will examine the ways in which Wilson uses language, character development, and symbolism to create a powerful and moving work of art.
The Theme of Racism in Seven Guitars
The theme of racism is a prevalent and significant aspect of August Wilson’s Seven Guitars. Set in the 1940s, the play explores the lives of African American characters living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the various forms of discrimination they face. From the opening scene, it is clear that racism is a pervasive force in the characters’ lives, shaping their experiences and limiting their opportunities. The play’s protagonist, Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton, is a talented musician who dreams of making it big in the music industry. However, his race and the systemic racism of the time prevent him from achieving his goals. Throughout the play, Wilson highlights the ways in which racism affects the characters’ relationships, their sense of self-worth, and their ability to succeed in a society that is stacked against them. Ultimately, Seven Guitars is a powerful exploration of the devastating impact of racism on individuals and communities, and a testament to the resilience and strength of those who continue to fight against it.
Character Analysis of Floyd Barton
Floyd Barton, the protagonist of August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, is a complex character with a troubled past and a deep passion for music. He is a talented blues guitarist who dreams of making it big in the music industry, but his journey is fraught with obstacles and setbacks. As the play unfolds, we see Floyd struggle with his relationships, his identity, and his own demons.
One of the most striking aspects of Floyd’s character is his vulnerability. Despite his tough exterior and his bravado, he is deeply wounded by the traumas of his past, including the death of his mother and the betrayal of his former lover, Vera. He is haunted by these memories and struggles to find a sense of belonging in the world.
At the same time, Floyd is also fiercely independent and determined. He refuses to let anyone stand in the way of his dreams, even if it means sacrificing his own happiness and well-being. He is willing to take risks and make bold choices, even when they may lead to his downfall.
Throughout the play, Floyd’s character undergoes a transformation as he grapples with his past and his future. He begins to question his own motivations and desires, and to confront the harsh realities of the music industry. Ultimately, he must decide what is most important to him: his own success, or the relationships and connections that give his life meaning.
In many ways, Floyd represents the struggles and aspirations of African Americans in the mid-twentieth century. He is a symbol of the resilience and creativity of a community that has faced countless obstacles and injustices. Through his journey, we see the power of music to heal, to inspire, and to connect people across boundaries of race and class.
The Role of Music in Seven Guitars
Music plays a significant role in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars. The play is set in the 1940s and revolves around the lives of African American musicians in Pittsburgh. The characters in the play use music as a means of expression, communication, and survival. The blues, in particular, is a recurring theme in the play, and Wilson uses it to explore the complexities of African American life during that time.
The blues is a genre of music that originated in African American communities in the Deep South. It is characterized by its melancholic lyrics and soulful melodies. In Seven Guitars, the blues serves as a metaphor for the struggles and hardships that the characters face. The characters use the blues to express their pain, sorrow, and frustration. For example, Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton, the protagonist of the play, sings the blues to cope with the death of his lover, Vera. The blues also serves as a means of communication between the characters. They use it to share their stories, connect with each other, and form a sense of community.
Moreover, music is also a means of survival for the characters in Seven Guitars. Many of them are struggling musicians who rely on their music to make a living. They perform in clubs, on street corners, and at parties to earn money. Music is their passion, but it is also their livelihood. The characters in the play are constantly trying to balance their artistic aspirations with the harsh realities of life.
In conclusion, music plays a crucial role in Seven Guitars. It is a means of expression, communication, and survival for the characters. The blues, in particular, is a powerful metaphor for the struggles and hardships that African Americans faced during the 1940s. August Wilson uses music to explore the complexities of African American life and to create a sense of community among his characters.
Symbolism in Seven Guitars
Symbolism plays a significant role in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars. The play is filled with various symbols that represent different themes and ideas. One of the most prominent symbols in the play is the guitar itself. The guitar represents the African American culture and its rich musical heritage. It also symbolizes the characters’ hopes and dreams, as they all aspire to become successful musicians. Another symbol in the play is the garden, which represents the characters’ desire for a better life and their struggle to achieve it. The garden also symbolizes the cycle of life and death, as the characters plant and harvest crops while dealing with the loss of loved ones. Overall, the use of symbolism in Seven Guitars adds depth and meaning to the play, allowing readers to explore the themes and ideas presented in a more profound way.
August Wilson’s Writing Style in Seven Guitars
August Wilson’s writing style in Seven Guitars is a masterful blend of poetic language, vivid imagery, and authentic dialogue. Wilson’s use of vernacular language and dialects adds a layer of authenticity to the characters and their experiences. The play is set in the 1940s, and Wilson captures the essence of the time period through his use of language and cultural references. The characters’ struggles with poverty, racism, and the pursuit of the American Dream are all themes that Wilson explores in Seven Guitars. The play is also known for its use of music, which serves as a metaphor for the characters’ lives and experiences. Wilson’s writing style in Seven Guitars is a testament to his skill as a playwright and his ability to capture the complexities of the human experience.
The Significance of the Setting in Seven Guitars
The setting in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars plays a significant role in shaping the characters and their experiences. The play is set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in the 1940s, a predominantly African American neighborhood. The dilapidated houses and streets reflect the poverty and struggle of the characters, who are trying to make a living as musicians. The setting also highlights the racial tensions and discrimination that the characters face, as they navigate their way through a society that is hostile towards them. The Hill District is not just a physical location, but a symbol of the African American experience, and Wilson uses it to explore themes of identity, community, and legacy. The setting is not just a backdrop, but an integral part of the play, and it adds depth and complexity to the characters and their stories.
The Use of Dialogue in Seven Guitars
August Wilson’s Seven Guitars is a play that is heavily reliant on dialogue to convey its themes and messages. The use of dialogue in this play is not only a tool for character development but also a means of exploring the complexities of African American life in the 1940s. Wilson’s characters speak in a vernacular that is unique to their experiences and backgrounds, and their conversations reveal the nuances of their relationships, aspirations, and struggles. The dialogue in Seven Guitars is not just a means of advancing the plot but also a way of capturing the essence of the African American experience. Through their conversations, Wilson’s characters express their hopes, fears, and dreams, and in doing so, they provide a window into the world of African Americans during a time of great social and political change. The use of dialogue in Seven Guitars is a testament to Wilson’s skill as a playwright and his ability to create characters that are both relatable and complex.
The Role of Women in Seven Guitars
In Seven Guitars, August Wilson portrays the struggles and triumphs of African Americans in the 1940s. However, the play also highlights the role of women in this era. The female characters in Seven Guitars are strong, resilient, and independent. They are not just supporting characters but are integral to the plot and themes of the play.
One of the most prominent female characters in Seven Guitars is Vera. She is the love interest of the protagonist, Floyd, and is a symbol of hope and stability. Vera is a hardworking woman who is determined to make a better life for herself and her community. She is also a source of emotional support for Floyd and the other characters.
Another important female character is Louise. She is a widow who is struggling to raise her son and make ends meet. Despite her hardships, Louise remains optimistic and determined. She is also a voice of reason and wisdom, providing guidance to the other characters.
Overall, the women in Seven Guitars are complex and multifaceted. They are not just defined by their relationships with men but are fully realized characters with their own goals and aspirations. Through their stories, August Wilson highlights the resilience and strength of African American women in the face of adversity.
The Importance of Friendship in Seven Guitars
In August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, the importance of friendship is a recurring theme that is explored throughout the play. The characters in the play rely heavily on their friendships to navigate the challenges they face in their lives. From the opening scene, we see the bond between Floyd and his friends, Canewell, Red Carter, and Hedley, as they gather to mourn the death of another friend. This bond is further strengthened as they work together to achieve their dreams and overcome obstacles.
Friendship is also a source of comfort and support for the female characters in the play. Vera, Louise, and Ruby form a tight-knit group that provides emotional support and encouragement to each other. They share their hopes and dreams, and help each other through difficult times.
However, the importance of friendship is not just limited to the characters’ personal lives. It also plays a significant role in their professional aspirations. Floyd’s success as a musician is largely due to the support and encouragement he receives from his friends. They help him secure gigs, promote his music, and provide him with the emotional support he needs to keep going.
Overall, Seven Guitars highlights the importance of friendship in all aspects of life. It shows how friends can provide emotional support, help us achieve our goals, and make life more enjoyable. The play reminds us that we should cherish and nurture our friendships, as they are an essential part of our lives.
The Tragic Hero in Seven Guitars
The tragic hero is a common archetype in literature, and August Wilson’s Seven Guitars is no exception. The play’s protagonist, Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton, fits the mold of a tragic hero in many ways. He is a talented musician with big dreams, but his flaws ultimately lead to his downfall. As the play progresses, we see Floyd struggle with his relationships, his past mistakes, and his own sense of identity. Despite his best efforts, he is unable to overcome these obstacles and ultimately meets a tragic end. Wilson’s portrayal of Floyd as a tragic hero is both poignant and thought-provoking, forcing us to confront the complexities of human nature and the consequences of our actions.
The Portrayal of the American Dream in Seven Guitars
In August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, the American Dream is portrayed as a distant and unattainable goal for the African American characters. Set in the 1940s, the play follows the lives of seven characters as they struggle to make a living and pursue their dreams in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Despite their efforts, they are constantly met with obstacles and setbacks that prevent them from achieving their goals. The characters’ experiences reflect the harsh realities of racism and economic inequality that were prevalent during this time period. Through their stories, Wilson highlights the challenges that African Americans faced in their pursuit of the American Dream and the resilience and determination that they exhibited in the face of adversity.
The Impact of History on Seven Guitars
August Wilson’s Seven Guitars is a play that delves deep into the African American experience during the 1940s. The play is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and explores the lives of seven characters who are struggling to make a living in a society that is rife with racism and discrimination. The impact of history on Seven Guitars is significant, as the play is a reflection of the social and political climate of the time.
One of the most significant historical events that influenced Seven Guitars is the Great Migration. During the early 20th century, millions of African Americans migrated from the rural South to the urban North in search of better economic opportunities and to escape the oppressive Jim Crow laws. This migration had a profound impact on African American culture and identity, and it is a theme that is explored in Seven Guitars.
Another historical event that influenced Seven Guitars is World War II. During the war, African Americans were recruited to fight for their country, but they were still subjected to discrimination and segregation. The war also brought about significant social and economic changes, which are reflected in the play.
Overall, the impact of history on Seven Guitars is evident in the themes and characters of the play. August Wilson masterfully weaves together historical events and personal experiences to create a powerful and poignant work of literature that speaks to the African American experience.
The Use of Foreshadowing in Seven Guitars
August Wilson’s Seven Guitars is a play that is rich in symbolism and foreshadowing. Throughout the play, Wilson uses various literary techniques to hint at the events that are to come. Foreshadowing is one such technique that is used extensively in the play. By using foreshadowing, Wilson creates a sense of anticipation and suspense in the minds of the readers and viewers.
One of the most significant examples of foreshadowing in Seven Guitars is the recurring image of the ghost of Floyd Barton. Floyd is a blues guitarist who is killed before the play begins. However, his ghost appears several times throughout the play, haunting the other characters. This ghostly presence serves as a constant reminder of Floyd’s tragic fate and foreshadows the events that will unfold later in the play.
Another example of foreshadowing in Seven Guitars is the recurring theme of betrayal. Throughout the play, the characters betray each other in various ways. For example, Vera betrays Floyd by having an affair with his friend, Canewell. Similarly, Canewell betrays Floyd by stealing his song and passing it off as his own. These acts of betrayal foreshadow the ultimate betrayal that leads to Floyd’s death.
In conclusion, the use of foreshadowing in Seven Guitars is a testament to August Wilson’s skill as a writer. By using this literary technique, Wilson creates a sense of anticipation and suspense that keeps the audience engaged throughout the play. The recurring images of Floyd’s ghost and the theme of betrayal serve as constant reminders of the tragic fate that awaits the characters. Overall, Seven Guitars is a masterful work of literature that showcases the power of foreshadowing.
The Importance of Community in Seven Guitars
In August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, the importance of community is a recurring theme that is explored throughout the play. The characters in the play are all connected to each other in some way, whether it be through family ties, friendships, or shared experiences. This sense of community is what helps them to navigate the challenges they face and find meaning in their lives.
One of the most striking examples of the importance of community in Seven Guitars is the way the characters come together to mourn the death of Floyd Barton, a talented musician who was killed before he could achieve his dreams. Despite their differences and conflicts, the characters are united in their grief and their desire to honor Floyd’s memory. This sense of shared loss brings them closer together and helps them to find comfort and support in each other.
Another example of the importance of community in Seven Guitars is the way the characters rely on each other for survival. Many of them are struggling to make ends meet and facing systemic oppression, but they find strength in their relationships with each other. Vera, for example, is a single mother who is trying to raise her son and make a living as a seamstress. She relies on her friends and neighbors for help with childcare and financial support, and in turn, she offers her own skills and resources to help others in need.
Overall, the importance of community in Seven Guitars is a testament to the power of human connection and the resilience of the human spirit. Despite the challenges they face, the characters in the play find hope and meaning in their relationships with each other, and their sense of community helps them to overcome adversity and find a sense of belonging in the world.
The Significance of the Title Seven Guitars
The title of August Wilson’s play, Seven Guitars, holds significant meaning and symbolism throughout the story. The number seven is often associated with completion or perfection, and in this case, it represents the seven characters whose lives are intertwined in the play. Each character has their own story and struggles, but they all share a common love for music and the guitar. The guitar itself also holds symbolic significance, representing the African American experience and the power of music to heal and connect people. Overall, the title Seven Guitars encapsulates the themes of community, perseverance, and the power of music that are central to the play.
The Role of Religion in Seven Guitars
Religion plays a significant role in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars. The characters in the play are deeply rooted in their religious beliefs, and their faith shapes their actions and decisions. The play is set in the 1940s, a time when religion was an integral part of African American culture. The characters in Seven Guitars turn to religion for guidance, comfort, and hope in the face of adversity.
One of the most prominent examples of the role of religion in Seven Guitars is the character of Canewell. Canewell is a blues guitarist who is deeply religious. He often quotes scripture and uses his faith to guide his actions. Canewell’s faith is tested when he is faced with the death of his friend and fellow musician, Floyd. Canewell struggles to reconcile his faith with the violence and injustice he sees around him.
Another character who is deeply affected by religion is Vera. Vera is a devout Christian who is struggling to come to terms with her past. She turns to religion as a way to find redemption and forgiveness. Vera’s faith is tested when she is faced with the possibility of losing her home. She turns to prayer and her church community for support and guidance.
Overall, religion plays a crucial role in Seven Guitars. It is a source of comfort, guidance, and hope for the characters in the play. However, it is also a source of conflict and tension, as characters struggle to reconcile their faith with the harsh realities of their lives. Through the portrayal of religion in Seven Guitars, August Wilson explores the complex relationship between faith and the human experience.
The Use of Irony in Seven Guitars
August Wilson’s Seven Guitars is a play that is rich in irony. The use of irony is a literary device that is employed by the author to create a contrast between what is expected and what actually happens. In Seven Guitars, Wilson uses irony to highlight the struggles of African Americans in the 1940s. The play is set in Pittsburgh, and it follows the lives of seven characters who are trying to make a living as musicians. The irony in the play is evident in the way the characters’ lives unfold. Despite their talent and hard work, they are unable to achieve their dreams. The play is a commentary on the harsh realities of life for African Americans during this time period. Wilson’s use of irony is a powerful tool that helps to convey the message of the play.
The Significance of the Ending in Seven Guitars
The ending of August Wilson’s Seven Guitars is a crucial element in understanding the overall message of the play. The final scene, in which the ghost of Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton appears to his former lover Vera, serves as a powerful metaphor for the cyclical nature of life and the importance of remembering and honoring the past. Through this haunting and poignant conclusion, Wilson emphasizes the need for individuals and communities to confront their histories and acknowledge the legacies of those who came before them. The ending of Seven Guitars is not only emotionally resonant but also thematically significant, underscoring the play’s exploration of the African American experience and the ongoing struggle for equality and justice.