The Isolation and Alienation of Troy in Wilson's Fences
August Wilson's Fences is a play about life, and an extended metaphor Wilson uses to show the crumbling relationships between Troy and Cory and Troy and Rose. Troy Maxson represents the dreams of black America in a majorly white world, a world where these dreams were not possible because of the racism and attitudes that prevailed. Troy Maxson is representative of many blacks and their "attitudes and behavior...within the social flux of the late fifties, in their individual and collective struggles to hew a niche for themselves in the rocky social terrain of postwar America" (Pereria, 37). Much of the tension in the play comes from Troy Maxson, and his inability to change, his, "refusal to accept the fact that social conditions are changing for the black man" (Pereria, 37). Troy's wife, Rose, recognizes this early on, saying to him, "Times have changed from when you was young, Troy. People change. The world's changing around you and you can't even see it" (Wilson, 40).
This inability to change diversely affects Troy's relationship with his second son, Cory, who is a promising athlete. Sports provide the arena for the continuing conflict and foreshadows the characteristic that will eventually lead to Troy's downfall. There is a constant struggle between Troy and Cory because Troy will not allow his son to pursue his athletic dreams, telling him instead to keep his after-school job. This comes from Troy's past, when he was a promising baseball player who was prevented from playing because he was black. Troy's fears carry into the new generation when he prevents his son from pursuing a football scholarship because of his past, even though the world was changing at this time, and colored people were expanding into new areas. Troy admits to Rose that his decision regarding Cory's future comes from his past when he states, "I decided seventeen years ago that boy wasn't getting involved in no sports. Not after what they did to me in the sports" (Wilson, 39). Troy, unable to change with the times, is, "convinced of no professional future for black athletes, he is determined to direct his son into a more practical career" (Pereira, 37).
The title of the work, Fences, acts as an extended metaphor throughout the play. Troy builds fences between himself and virtually everyone in the play, isolating himself further and further as he clings to the past and refuses to adapt to a world changing around him. He builds a fence between himself and his friend Bono when he takes a promotion at work, and then puts a fence between he and Rose when he goes outside of the confines of their marriage with Alberta. He also builds a fence between himself and Cory by his refusal to acknowledge his son's dreams. As Bogumil states, "By drawing a strict boundary around himself regarding familial relations, Troy loses virtually every sense of affection and bond between himself and his son, causing Cory to conclude that his father does not even like him" (48). When Cory alludes to the question of his father liking him, Troy responds, "....cause I like you? You about the biggest fool I ever saw." He continues with, "You my flesh and blood. Not 'cause I like you! Cause it's my duty to take care of you. I owe a responsibility to you! (Wilson, 38). Later in the play, in the end of Act Two, Scene Four, Troy and Cory fight physically, and after Troy tells Cory to leave his house, and Cory says he will return for his things, Troy tells him, "They'll be on the other side of that fence" (Wilson, 89).Troy has not only put Cory out physically, but has metaphorically put his son on the other side of the fence, away from him.
Troy Maxson builds a fence so strong he thought he could keep death himself out. In the end of Act Two, Scene Two he tells Death, "See now....I'm gonna tell you what I'm...