Critical Lens

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In the book, “Strength to Love”, Martin Luther King Jr. said “ The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” In other words, a person’s character is defined by how they respond at a time of despair, hurt, and struggle and not how a person acts and what they stand for at a time of peacefulness and luxury. Both, “Fences” by August Wilson and “The Color of Water” by James McBride illustrate the truth of this quote using characterization and conflict.

In August Wilson’s play, “Fences”, the characters endure both times of contentment and despair. In the play, the protagonist, Troy Mason, copes with both peacefulness and defeat. Throughout the play he rebels and frustrates as he struggles for fairness in a society which seems to offer none. However, soon one notices that beneath a mask of cruelty and toughness there is an individual who takes responsibility for his family no matter how difficult circumstances may seem. Throughout the play, Troy is constantly defined by how he approaches tough situations. For example, one of the major conflicts in the play was the conflict between Troy and his son. Throughout the play, Troy is forced to take a stand. He has to decide to either stand with his son or against him. As the play progresses, readers realize that Troy holds a strong grudge against professional sports and does not support Cory’s dream of playing professional football.

In the autobiography, “The Color of Water”, by James McBride, the narrator endures different times of confusion and desolation in finding himself. The narrator is often confused due to his mother’s secretive and complicated past which involves a Jewish family he never knew about. The constant surprises and unexpected paths keep James on his toes. When he hears about the type of person his grandfather was he is forced to make a very serious decision; he can accept this past as his own...
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