20 March 2013
The Relationship Between Father and Son in Fences and The Parable of the Prodigal Son
In any relationship between a parent and a child, communication plays a significant role. To keep the family dynamics stable the verbal interaction amongst parent and child must take place. The ability to understand one another is what holds a relationship together. Sometimes these strong relationships can cause conflicts and grief, as depicted in The Parable of the Prodigal Son by Luke and Fences by August Wilson. In both these stories, the father and their two sons struggle to comply with each other. Both authors utilize the past, present, and future expectation of what a parent hopes their son to become. Whether it involves a supportive or ignorant parent, it is the unique way in which each portray their love for their child, that causes us to question, what makes one a good father?
“We would like to believe that only a disturbed parent responds in a way that is damaging to a child. Unfortunately, even parents who are loving and well meaning also blame, shame, accuse, ridicule, threaten, bribe, label, punish, preach, and moralize” (1). This statement, made by author, Dr. G. Ginott in her book Between Parent and Child: The Bestselling Classic That Revolutionized Parent-Child Communication speaks of the reality that even caring parents may be punitive towards their kids. This certainly applies to Troy, the father of Cory and Lyons, in Fences. During his youth, Troy was not allowed to join the Majors Leagues primarily because of racial discrimination. Unable to cope with his dreams being torn, he failed to come into the realization that times were different now. His wife Rose tried to make him see that the generation had changed by telling him, "they got lots of colored boys playing ball now, baseball and football" (842). Cory even points out to his father several current black baseball players, like the famous Hank Aaron. But Troy dismisses all of this and tells his son, "The white man ain't gonna let you get nowhere with that football noway" (835).
Troy simply cannot acknowledge that times have changed. Instead of allowing Cory to pursue football, Troy destroys his son's dreams. He refuses to sign the permission paper and prevents the college recruiter from coming. Through Troy’s belligerent behavior, it is evident that his actions speak from something within. But in order to fully understand Troy’s behavior one must first explore the way he was brought up. As noted by W.P. Kennedy, “the origins of Troy’s hardness are to be found in his personal history. His clearest early model of manhood was the father he was forced to reject. On his own at fourteen, Troy had to harden himself against a world at best indifferent, at worst hostile, to his desires” (Kenney). At a young age Troy was force to raise himself, as described in act one scene four, Troy's childhood was shattered due to the lack of commitment from both his parents (842). Troy inherited useful yet unfortunate traits from his dad. He gained the sense of responsibility from his father's bitter care for him and his siblings. Although his mother abandoned him, his father remained by his side (842). But yet he received no affection from him since his father believed that love was not an obligation, but a job (843). Troy repeats this philosophy on Cory by not supporting him in his dreams. But one must see beyond the surface of Troy’s actions and acknowledge that his rejection in the Major Leagues had a big part to do with it. The psychological affect that baseball had on Troy is what causes him to become angry and stubborn towards everything around him. This essentially has an impact on his relationship with his son Cory. The inability to support his son’s dreams of playing for a college football team embodies the obstacle that he had for so long feared. In Troy's mind, he is just trying to keep his son from...
Cited: Dooley, Patrick K. "The Prodigal Son Parable and Maclean 's A River Runs through It." Renascence 58.2 (Winter 2005): 165-175. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jelena O. Krstovic. Vol. 136. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Literature Resource Center. Web. 20 Mar. 2013.
Ginott, G. Dr. Haim. Between Parent and Child: The Bestselling Classic That Revolutionized Parent-Child Communication. 1965. Ed. Alice Ginott and H. Wallace Goddard. New York: Three Rivers, 2003. Print.
Kenney, W. P. “Fences By: Kenney, W. P., Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition.” (1985): n.pag. Literary Reference Center. Web. 20 Mar. 2013.
Mallery, Bruce. “The Relationship Between Parents and Children Understanding the True Desires of Your Children.” Snitruth.org. n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2013.
New International Version. “The Parable of the Lost Son.” BibleGateway.com. NIV. 2011. Web. 19 Marc. 2013
Wilson August. Fences. A Little Literature. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, William Burto, and William E. Cain. New York: Longman, 2007. 827-78. Print.
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