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The Piano

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A Mail Order Bride

"The strange thing is I don't think myself silent, that is, because of my piano" (Campion 9). This beloved instrument is central to the plot and plays a major role in the movie The Piano. It is a symbolic instrument that Campion uses to tell a complex tale.. The film is a story of shyness, repression, and loneliness, of a woman who will not speak and a man who cannot listen, and of a willful little girl who causes mischief.

Ada's verbal silence is a complicated issue in the film and contributes to the overall confusion surrounding her gender identity. Since the age of six, Ada voluntarily chose to be mute and expresses herself through her play of her piano. Her piano symbolized not only her body but also more importantly her soul.

In the mid-1800's, Ada arrives on the stormy shores of New Zealand to meet her prearranged husband, Stewart. Ada was referred to as the mail-order bride on the summation of the Blockbuster videocassette. In addition to her luggage filled with dishes and clothes, she brings her eight-year old daughter, and her piano. Despite Ada's wordless pleadings, Stewart refuses to bring her piano home and it is left on the beach. As Ada, Stewart, and the rest of the crew leave the beach, Ada contemplates the piano sitting on the sand near the water. This scene shows the underlying feelings of Ada; she is unhappy that her prize possession is being left behind. Stewart believes in his ownership of Ada and he demonstrates this by negating her own claim to property.

Baines, a local man with Maori ways, makes a deal with Stewart in which he will trade land for music lessons from Ada. Baines offers Ada a deal to get the instrument back, and she is unprepared for the price she must ultimately pay. He recognizes the value that the piano has with Ada, which Stewart fails to do. The first act of compassion from Baines towards Ada is when he has the piano tuned. This event symbolizes that he truly cares what Ada feels and respects her as a women and person. Stewart does not comprehend that affection must be earned through trust, respect, and love. Baines realizes this and he gives the piano back to her saying, "I want you to care for me" (The Piano).

One can feel the sense of frustration with Baines during the play scene. Stewart asks Baines "are you doing well with your lessons " and "what do you play" (The Piano). Baines replies, "nothing just yet" (The Piano). This complements the feelings that Baines has toward Ada; however, the feeling is not mutual "just yet."

For Ada, her inner feelings are revealed after the act of kindness, in which he returns the piano back to her, that she comes to realize her attachment to Baines. However, her feelings are truly portrayed as she risks giving Baines a key to the piano. The key to the piano symbolizes that she is giving a piece of herself, perhaps her heart, to the man who gives her the respect and love that she wants and needs.

Stewart becomes frustrated when Ada refuses to give him the sexual attention he so desires. When he discovers Ada and Baines' sexual relationship, he tries to rape Ada and then boards the windows and doors of the house with Ada and Flora inside,


hoping to imprison them under his control. He performs a horrific act by cutting off part of Ada's finger in retaliation for her breaking her promise to not have contact again with Baines. Stewart resorts to violence because he cannot think of any other way to control his wife. His violent act fails at making Ada his slave and he no longer sees himself as the master in control of the situation.

During the finale of



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