Spirituality & Religion
In August Wilson’s “Fences”
“Fences” is one of ten plays written by August Wilson that document historic periods in Black American life. It is a colorful and thoughtfully written piece that tells the story of one family’s struggle in Civil Rights Era America, an empowering and complicated time for lower and middle class blacks struggling to attain an ideal of the “American Dream”. Troy and Rose Maxon’s family deal with complex external challenges, such as economic shifts in industry and working classes that shape the financial status, evidenced by Troy’s successful quest for promotion and increased responsibility at his blue-collar job. Their internal issues range from father-son power struggles, infidelity, and dishonesty as common moral dilemmas; which are presented as a dialogue that illustrates how socio-economic and cultural upheaval can affect the family dynamic. Influences of cultural traditions, such as modern expressions of black spirituality, are implied throughout the play as a source of elevation from present circumstance, seem to unite the Maxons during times of structural change and give cause for their working together to create a better way of life. Still, social change redefined and reshaped their definition of family, uniting them as it also separated them, as the black progressive movements did within the ranks of classes. Consistently mentioned throughout the story are religious and spiritual themes that describe the hope and optimism that anchors their day to day lives, clearly a constant and a comfort in the uncertainty of the times they faced. The climatic and deeply religious conclusion at the ending of the story center around Troy’s mentally ill sibling Gabriel, who fancies himself the archangel that guides lost souls to the gate of heaven, exemplifies this dedication to hope and spiritual grounding, and personifies the...
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