Gabriel: Archangel in the Flesh (Fences by August Wilson)

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Gabriel: Archangel in the Flesh
August Wilson’s choice to end Fences with Gabriel signaling to St. Peter to open the gates of heaven for Troy to enter gives a last sense of hope in a play that is supposed to outline Troy’s downfall from success to losing everything. Though Troy died after fathering a child with another woman while he was married and being disrespected by his own son Cory, Gabriel, being a beautifully deranged man, disregards all of this. With this last scene, he aims to directly fulfill the promise that he saw Troy’s name in St. Peter’s book of those who could be allowed to enter the gates of heaven. August Wilson makes this last scene memorable with the many elements that he seamlessly blends into his writing; in addition, Wilson made the passage his own by harking back to his days of poetry and using such techniques as descriptive fragments and richly eloquent vocabulary. In the action of the scene, Gabriel “puts the end of [his trumpet] into his mouth and blows with great force…No sound comes out of the trumpet. He braces himself and blows again with the same result” (100-101). When his trumpet fails, his belief in the divine seems to temporarily fail him as well, and he starts to doubt if he is really the archangel Gabriel. Subsequently, he seems to let out a short and melancholy sigh of frustration that seems to say, “Well, that didn’t work.” However, he continues on from this incomprehensible “trauma” that “leaves him bare and exposed to a frightful realization” (101) in hope that he will still be able to open the gates of heaven. So “he begins to dance…a slow, strange dance, eerie and lifegiving…a dance of atavistic signature and ritual” (101). The rich description of the manner in which he dances as ritually atavistic harks back to his simple and minimalistic African heritage, showing that Gabe, seeing that his Christianity was failing him, had to connect with his connections to his ancestors in order to open the gates. After



Cited: Wilson, August. Fences. New York: Samuel French, 2010. Print.

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