When I was a child, I often passed the time by playing imaginary games in which I was sometimes a superhero, sometimes a pirate, sometimes a teacher. I played these games all the way through elementary school, and when I was ten, I invited a friend over to my house, in the hopes that she would want to play my silly games with me. But when I mentioned it to her, she told me that imaginary games were “dumb”. If it is not real, what is the point of pretending? I was completely taken aback by what she said; obviously I preferred to live in the imaginary world, and she in the real world. This situation was a classic example of the struggle between realistic points of view and illusionist points of view. Correspondingly, the husband and wives in August Wilson’s Fences and Robert Frost’s “Home Burial” represent the differences between realism and imagination.
Rose Maxson views the world in a “realistic” fashion. Rose prefers to look upon the world as it truly is, without any pretense. She tells no tall tales and instead accepts the way of the world as is. When her husband recounts a false story, she refutes it with fact. For example, when Troy tells Bono about his encounter with Death, Rose cuts in with the truth: “he had pneumonia” (Wilson 151). When Troy claims to have met the devil, Rose replies, “You ain’t seen no devil” (Wilson 152). This shows that Rose is a no-nonsense woman when it comes to spinning imaginary tales. She prefers the truth of matters to falsities. Furthermore, she holds no illusions on how the world has changed or what consequences an action may have. When discussing sports with Troy and Bono, Troy claims that “the white man” would not allow Cory to progress in football, Rose asserts that “they got lots of colored boys playing ball now” (Wilson 149). She goes on to state that “times have changed” since the Second World War, which contradicts Troy’s argument that times have are still the same. This demonstrates Rose’s acceptance of the movement of time. She does not live in the past amongst imaginary boundaries, but instead lives in the modern world, where the racial constraints on sports are loosening. She has adapted her outlook on life to include social progression.
The husband in “Home Burial” owns a similarly realistic view of death. He has no illusions about whether or not his child is truly dead, or about the position of death in life. He accepts death as a natural occurrence, an imminent event that nothing can prevent. He speaks plainly about the death of his child and his failing relationship with his wife. It was he that dug the small grave for the child; “making the gravel leap and leap in the air” (line 75). He used this as a means of dealing with the loss. By looking at the child and physically putting the baby to rest in the “little grave” (73), he was able to come to terms with the death and put it past him. When he mentions that “Three foggy mornings and one rainy day/Will rot the best birch fence a man can build” (92-93), he is recognizing the fact that, eventually, all things will fade away and die, that all things end. This shows his realistic view of death and his willingness to accept it.
In contrast, Troy Maxson prefers to see the world through a series of false tales and illusions. Troy is a storyteller and he regularly embellishes these tales with false and exaggerated information. He even justifies his actions with an imaginary story, preferring to live in a world of imagination. In fact, the first line of the play is Bono saying, “Troy, you ought to stop that lying” (Wilson 145). This creates the impression of Troy as a man of tall tales right from the beginning. One of his stories is his encounter with Death, in which Troy claims that the two of them “wrestled for three days and three nights” (Wilson 151). While this is physically impossible, it is also proved false by Rose pointing out that each time Troy told it, “he find different ways to tell it” (Wilson 151). This...
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