Outlining Father/Son Relationships Based on the Play Fences by August Wilson
August Wilson was an influential 20th-century playwright and the most prominent African American of that craft. Born on April 27, 1945, August Wilson grew up in the Hill district of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His childhood experiences in this black slum community would later become part of his dramatic writings. Though he lived much of his adult life in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in Seattle, the characters and plots of his plays were inspired by realities he experienced growing up in Pittsburgh's Hill District and Oakland neighborhood. August Wilson’s, Fences set in the late 1950's tells the story of Troy Maxson, an uneducated trash collector who has become resentful by a racist system that has deprived of him the baseball career he feels he deserves. This resentment has also caused turmoil in his relationship with his sons Cory and Lyons. Cory's disobedience and Lyons insensible, irresponsible attitude were caused by their father’s indifferent attitude towards them.
August Wilson writes about the black experience in Fences and the struggle that many African American men like Troy Maxson. Wilson paints the following picture to describe how different reality was for African Americans compared to their white counterparts: They came from places called the Carolinas…Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. They came strong, eager, searching. The city rejected them ….They sold the use of their muscles and their bodies. They cleaned houses and washed clothes, they shined shoes, and in quiet desperation and vengeful pride, they stole and lived in pursuit of their own dream. (Wilson 1331)
Troy Maxson plays the part of the central character who has been disappointed throughout his life by everyone he has been close to. He was forced to leave home at an early age because his father beat him so dramatically and had to plunge himself into adulthood “And right there the world suddenly got big…” (1352). He feels the purpose for his life is to work hard and provide for his family. As long as he does that he does not see a need for anything else. We learn this from his argument with Cory: “I go out of here every morning … bust my butt …putting up with them crackers every day ...” (1347). Troy's father not only passes on his own race-related frustrations to Troy, but also his inability to face life's challenges with dignity Troy's character creates drama with everyone else in Fences. Troy’s indifferent attitude causes discord as a result of his inability to accept other's choices in life when they differ from Troy's own viewpoint. Troy's father was more of an “evil” man than Troy, but he was a worker and a provider (1352). Troy, even as a runaway, carried with him his father's qualities along with a considerable decrease of the father's harshness and promiscuity. To Troy's credit he can appreciate his father's legacy and excuse his evil side: "But I'll say this for him...he felt a responsibility toward us...he could have walked off and left us...made his own way" (1352). Troy never learned how to treat people that were close to him with love and respect. Troy Maxson is complicated, unstable and finally, a difficult character in the play (Brewer). This makes Troy the contender in the story because he is not only against everyone in the play, but he is also against himself and ultimately making his life and theirs more complicated. The discrimination that Troy faced while playing baseball and the torment he endures as a child shaped him into the person that he has become. Fences establishes the difficulties of acceptance…in both directions of a man’s history: from the father, then from the son” (Brewer). Wilson’s Fences portrays various relationships and impact one man had on numerous people around him. These methods as well as the common story of the struggle between a father and son allow the reader to connect and relate to the characters and the plot. The...
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