The Piano and Social Patternings

Colonialism (both sexual and political),symbolism,depiction of Maori,Portrayal of male characters,etc. The Piano looks at social patternings  of the two main male characters,Stewart and Baines,rules of behaviour in society,their usually unsuccesful attempts to live out their desires,and how each one”s identity affect the others place in the family,community and life. The Piano has powerful emotional themes resonating through it, all dealing with the release of repressed passion. Baines, one of the main male figures in the play,who has embraced the native Maori methods of living, no longer clings to the values of British society, and is therefore quite capable of expressing himself freely, which he does in some strange ways.

On the other hand , Stewart views the Maori with suspicion and hostility . Baines is another settler who assists Stewart,especially in mediating between him and the indigenous Maori whose language and customs Baines has come to know and sometimes share. Stewart cannot apreciatte either the need for the piano.

Campion”s use of the blasted setting for Stewart”s house,in pointed contrast to Baine”s more ecological integrated one ,depicts the tradition and the use of the landscape fo symbolic as well as representational differences between the two male characters Stewart and Baines.

Unlike Stewart who has built his cottage in a wooden cottage surrounded my bush and mud,Baines is in harmony with his enviroment. Baines moves between the separate worlds of Maori and white,acts as messenger and interpreter.

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He has long ago given up any attempt to distance himself and the native people. Baines’ relationship with the Maori is very good. In a way, he has succeed to create a bridge nature and culture in the film through his affinity with the land and his easy relationship with the Maori stand in contrast to Stewart.

Stewart makes a bad start and his marriage gets off when he leaves the piano on the beach where Ada and Flora land. He is a capitalist colonizer trying to buy the burial land from Maori and trying to exploit them. Maori blend in the country and move through the landscape in such a way that white people can never match there. Stewart would not be in the country if it were not in the process of being colonized. He is obsessed with owning more and more land and he treats the Maoris like children . Stewart complains to Baines “What do they want the land for?

They don’t cultivate it, burn it back. How do they even know it’s theirs”(pg. 121). Stewart appears as a confused man ,who tries to control his world,his music,his sex ,is emotional deadness with moments of humour when he orders Flora to witewash the indigenous trees after she and some of her friends are caught rubbing up againstthem in a playful way. The Piano for him is an object of no value until it can be exchanged for some land. Value for him is seen in terms of exchanging or buying property of land. Therefore,Baines is a more sympathetic character than Stewart because he is more in touch with the Maori among whom he lives and they in turn are more in touch with the nature in the play.

Although Stewart is very conservatively severely dressed,he wants to show that he is a gentleman and he only cares about how he appears to others as we have seen in the play. The camera captures him to comb numerous times his hair and care not so much about the image of his future wife but more about the reflection of his face in the small framed photo where Ada”s is represented. As opposed to Stewart,Baines is dressed informally,he stays more close to the land,gives not a big emphasis in the outer look but more to his feelings,has softer tones,as also his face marked with the special tatoos moko expressing not only Maori”s identity but also his affinity with both Maori and nature,as a white Tarzan of The Piano.

He has gone bush and has a strong relationship with the Maori people. He is the natural man that speaks Maori like native. He is not afraid to go down to go down the river and wash his dirty clothes in public in front of the native women there. Baines is more native than civilised with his apperance in the film. When Ada arrives and brings the piano with her,Stewart sees it as invaluable untill Baines puts a value on it .

It becomes a commodity with exchange value and Ada learns to bargain her body for her desire, the piano. Stewart puts her in that position . He has no idea of what empathy with the woman means. In falling back on his patriarchal authority , he turns Ada against him permanently, where she sees him like a monster. Baines, on the other hand, thinks always of Ada and the importance of the piano to her . He hears her in her silence, while Stewart does not hear her at all. Stewart is never a husband to Ada.

His behavior makes Ada look elsewhere, since he is not prepared to give her anything she needs. Stewart slips easily to the role of tyrrant for Ada,since her father chose him as his daughter”s partner. He is presented with a puritan patriarch order. The two men’s contrasting relations to the Maoris also serve to give us their measure, perhaps a little too obviously: Baines is linked to the ‘natural’ people and more interested in Ada than in music. Baines is illiterate but not ignorant. Watching Ada play her piano, listening to the music with which she speaks, he can detect a passion in this woman that he too wants to play.

Stewart is a man that values have failed him,although he tries to show Ada his patriarchical figure. Most of the cases,he undermines her like a bargain. He has already accepted her muteness and he thinks that she snob. As opossed to Baines,Stewart denies the affection of love. Stewart wanted to know how she looked ,although Baines wanted to know how she felt. Her muteness fascinates Baines but creates dreadful thoughts for Stewart. Baines, a man with no education,without manners and no restraints the antithesis with Ada,but also the only man the appreciates her beauty and respects her autonomy.

He has a sensuous play of touch and smell and that is his language with Ada. Their bodies become the dictionaries and instruments of expression,while the piano serves the smell of the salt sea and the sound of the keys. It is so expressive and erotic as Ada is elevating the scale in her piano climax as Baines in the meantime massaging her leg through a hole in her black stocking. Baines has no interest in piano lessons. But he talks Ada, who finds him repulsive, into an exchange. She will earn her piano back, key by key, if she will tolerate his indecent sexual desires while she plays. Ada, forced to submit to unwanted contact with Baines to regain the piano her husband sold without her consent.

But Ada’s need for the piano outweighs her rage and resentment. Ada’s willingness is enforced as Baines ups the stakes, more keys in exchange for more sexual favors from Ada. However, Baines is ready to drop his pants at almost any excuse,as opposed to Ada that sheds her inhibitions, and her clothes, at a slower pace. Baines’ seduction of Ada is lengthy, slow, deliberate shown in the film with the help of a warm afternoon sunshine between them. By giving her the power to bargain with him, Baines has liberated something in Ada.

He is the one who recognizes the sexual passion contained in Ada’s piano playing. He and Ada are becoming imprisoned by their passion for each other. His passion for Ada makes him free her not only from the bondage of her father but also from Stewart,whereas Ada builds a better and more balanced relationship with the masculine figure of Baines . He is the man that can admit her feminine elements and she can also in turn accept his masculine in her. Baines is somehow feels sickened about that degraded bargain at a point and he wants Ada only if she wants him, and is prepared to send her away.

She must now decide if she wants to give herself to him of her own free will and that is the liberating moment of her sexual passion . After she leaves, Baines is haunted by the echo and odor of a woman that she has left him with awe and lot of thoughts. Stewart makes two attempts to rape her,but she manages to drive him crazy with frustration and unables him to rape her at the end. He feels unable anymore and his only alternative is to imprison Ada and Flora in the home by nailing shut the door and windows.

The piano has lost a key and now the wife will lose her finger. The punishment from Stewart symbolically fits the sexual crime. In a rage Stewart chops off Ada’s index finger with an axe. When he tells Flora to give the wrapped finger to Baines, it it is with the warning that “if he ever tries to see her again I’ll take off another and another! ” (Campion, 104). Stewart shows here by cutting her finger his patriarchy’s brutal denial of female passion in all its liberating possibilities .

Afterwards Flora is made to deliver the finger, instead of the piano key, to Baines. Stewart, unable to be a man with his strong wife after that incident , is after finding himself near her bed where he is sexually aroused by her victimized condition and undoes his pants. But when Ada’s eyes open, Stewart is stopped in his tracks, stopped in his tracks, and hears the voice that sounds in her mind. A man in Stewart”s position ,though deeply repressed in his sexuality,expects to be able exercise his rights over his wife,but even there he fails. His hopefulness about winning Ada”s heart and love is as pitiable as his violence on her is odious.

Even Flora does no longer see him as a threat to her relationship with her mother. He understands that he must let her leave with Baines. Sacrifice precedes the powerful resolution of the impossible conflicts in this film. Stewart sacrifices Ada to restore her and he regains himself. Flora finds her own voice when she risks the complete sacrifice of her mother’s love. Baines sacrifices land, then the piano, then Ada, and after regaining her, finally sacrifices his old identity entirely for Ada and her love. As far as Ada’s side, she sacrifices the piano for her love of Baines, for Flora, and for her own will to live. The film ends with ambiguity.

Baines, Ada, and Flora move to a town where Ada, is fitted with a metal finger,which has repaired Stewart’s assault , gives real piano lessons and is learning to speak. Baines is there to love her and so is Flora. But Ada dreams of still being attached to the piano in the deep sea. Here we return to The Piano’s deep structure of imprisonment and freedom. Imprisoned by silence, by passion, by bars, by men, by New Zealand, by Victorian custom, and by the will that was not her own, Ada escapes to freedom and finds her voice. She unexpectedly finds the voice she silenced as a child and the love she perhaps never knew.

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The Piano and Social Patternings. (2017, Aug 08). Retrieved from

The Piano and Social Patternings
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