64 pages 2 hours read

Markus Zusak

Bridge of Clay

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2018

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Symbols & Motifs

The Piano

The day her father dies, Penelope Dunbar purchases a secondhand piano at a discounted price. This piano is delivered to the wrong address and allows Penelope to meet Michael, changing the course of their lives forever. Michael uses the piano to propose to Penelope, and it later becomes a source of contention between her sons as she tries to teach them the art of playing and they refuse for various reasons. After Penelope’s death, the boys store some items in the piano, transforming it into a memorial to their mother.

The piano represents Penelope and her ongoing presence in her son’s lives even after her passing. While alive, the piano is something that is both beautiful and difficult, a staple of their lives and shared histories. When she dies, the boys do not play the piano again, as the instrument was an extension of Penelope more than it was something they enjoyed. It exists in their house just like the memory of their mother exists in them. Sometimes, it is a comfort, and other times it is haunting. It remains unchanged even in the chaos and violence of the post-adult Dunbar household, reminding the boys of what they have lost.

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By Markus Zusak