August Wilson's: "Fences"

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  • Published : December 7, 2011
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August Wilson’s: “Fences”

In “Fences”, August Wilson tells the story of an ex-negro league baseball hero, Troy Maxon. Troy is a bitter man, withering away in his own hatred for the way things “are”, as well as his inability to see the world has changed. Troy has an “iron grip” on his family in the beginning, however as the story progresses the family breaks loose of the physical and emotional ties that are holding them down. Wilson uses character, setting, and symbolism to set the scene for Troy’s inner torment. Through characterization Wilson introduces Troy. Troy is a garbage collector. The year is 1957, which is the dawn of the civil-rights era. Troy is a former negro-league baseball player who was robbed of his chances to play in the major-leagues because of his race. Troy states, “I’m talking about if you could play ball then they ought to have let you play. Don’t care what color you were” (Wilson 1577; act I; scene 1). Troy has a lot of resentment for his missed opportunity with baseball, and is very hesitant to allow his son, Cory, to follow down the same road with football. Troy is unwilling to accept things in 1957 are beginning to change, and there are more opportunities for African Americans.

Troy’s relationship with his wife, Rose, is very complex. While Troy loves her, he marries her to change his ways. Troy to Rose, “I done locked myself into a pattern trying to take care of you all that I forgot about myself” (Wilson 1608 act II; scene 1). Troy wanted to marry her to become what he believed to be a “responsible man”, however after so long of living the ordinary married life, he feels “fenced” in. In “Breaking Barriers: August Wilson”, Yvonne Shafer makes the observation, “Unable to fence in Troy’s love, Rose is crushed when he informs her that he has another woman that is expecting a child” (Shafer). Rose is trying desperately to keep Troy isolated from the outside world, but he becomes anxious to see if there is more to life than he has. Shafer adds, “Juxtaposed with the threat of death is the attempt to find life and some meaning in life through sex” (Shafer). Troy is growing old, and he is also growing tired of his far less than perfect existence. Troy to Rose, about Alberta, “It’s just…She gives me a different idea…a different understanding about myself” (Wilson 1608; act II; scene 1). Rose is “familiar” to Troy, he wanted a sense of stability with her. He feels himself aging, with no real accomplishment to call his own in his life. Alberta, the other woman, makes him feel young and devoid of responsibility. His struggle becomes evident when Alberta dies in childbirth, and he is forced to return home with the baby girl, Rose to Troy:

Okay, Troy… you’re right. I’ll take care of your baby for you … ‘cause like you say… she’s innocent … and you can’t visit the sins of the father upon the child. A motherless child has got a hard time… From right now this child got a mother. But you a womanless man. (1613; act II; scene 4) Rose and Troy’s relationship completely unravels from this point, permanently. The baby represents what some would see as a new beginning, but for Troy it is really just the beginning of the end of his relationship with Rose, as well as the end of the respect that he commanded in the household....
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