Maturity and growing up
Paul's maturing from a teenage boy to a grown man is a central theme in the novel. His maturity comes in many different forms. He matures physically, growing taller than most of his classmates between his first and second year. Paul also experiences sexual maturity. He develops in sensuality, has his first sexual experiences, and learns to distinguish between his childhood lust for Megan and his deep, emotional love for Rosie. He also develops in his understanding of Keller's life and, consequentially, his understanding of the world. He goes from making immature jokes about Keller being a war criminal in hiding, to having a deep respect for his professor and what he has endured. Through knowing Keller, Paul comes to learn more about the cruelties of the world. He also matures in his perspective on his relationship with Keller, realizing more and more the impact Keller has had on his life.
The two pianos
Keller's room contains two pianos: a Bosendorfer grand and a peeling Wertheim upright. Keller always sits at the grand and has Paul sit at the old upright. The different pianos symbolize the gap between their musical skills. Paul continues to sit at the upright throughout his lessons, symbolizing that while he is becoming a better pianist he is still never as good as Keller is. Paul's desire to play at the grand parallels his desire to know more about Keller's past. When he does play the grand when Keller is not there, Paul notices the pictures of Keller's wife and son, gaining an insight into the life of his teacher. Keller's piano also symbolizes how for him music has become a refuge from the tragedies of the world. This is shown when Keller hides under his piano during the cyclone, and the piano shields him from the disaster.
Love and sexuality
Paul's sexual maturity is one of the key parts of making this novel a coming-of-age story. He experiences his first sexual feelings after meeting Megan, and his crush on her...