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Ministry of Education.

Confinement and fingers handout

A Feminist View of the Piano by Jane Campion


Ada's life can probably be best seen in terms of a collection of confinements.

She is confined to a marriage with a stranger by her father - arranged marriages being common in Victorian society.

She is confined to a country on the other side of the world, (probably as a result of her position as an unwed mother.)

She must take responsibility for and raise her child, as this is seen as her 'role.'

She is confined to domesticity as a result of the opinions of the time, women being unable to work when married.

Stewart literally confines her in his cottage to prevent her escaping the confines of the marriage.

She confines herself to 'speaking' in ways other than using verbal communication.

She is prevented from owning her piano through the act of two men exchanging it for a piece of land. She is forced into a sexual bargain with one of the men in order to get it back.


Fingers are Ada's primary means of expressing herself, through both playing the piano and sign language.

Fingers are seen as being very sexual things, possibly communicating desire or attraction. Baines puts his finger through a hole in the stockings of Ada, and Ada caresses both Stewart and Baines at different times during the film.

Ada sends a key from the piano (the piano's 'finger') to Baines as a token of her love.

Stewart cuts Ada's finger off to confine her to 'their' (his) marriage, and sends this finger to Baines (a message to him, again reflecting the idea of communication.)

Stewart's finger holds the balance of Baines' life when it rests on the trigger of the gun held at his head. Baines fashions a new finger for Ada so that she may seek the freedom of teaching piano and enjoying a 'free' life.

The final scene brings us two more development in this motif. Ada moves along a wall, feeling her way, while practising her speaking.

She encounters Baines standing, and they embrace and caress each other. Baines then, gently with his fingers removes the symbolic veil, allowing her to 'see.'

Published on: 12 Dec 2010