The Mothers of "Fences" and "Bright and Morning Star"
August Wilson, the author of "Fences" and Richard Wright, the author of "Bright and Morning Star" produced writings that made a significant impact on the culture of African American literature as we know it today. Both authors centered their works around African Americans, illuminating issues within the communities, and specifically, the family unit, or lack thereof. With Rose in "Fences" and Sue in "Bright and Morning Star", both were mothers that exhibited strength and sacrifice, putting their own needs aside for the wellbeing of their families. August Wilson's "Fences", written as a play, is a story of a Black family, primarily centered around Troy Maxson and his plight as a Black man in a predominantly White world. The play also puts an emphasis on the disintegrating relationships between Troy, his wife Rose, and his son Cory, due to his adulterous relationship with Alberta. That relationship led to the subsequent birth of Troy and Alberta's child, Raynell, and Alberta's untimely death during childbirth. Rose then adopted the motherless Raynell, but no longer had any further dealings with Troy as a husband. Rose Maxson is named for a flower, and takes on characteristics of that flower. When her husband is unfaithful to her, she takes the steps to protect herself and her family just as rose would protect itself. Throughout the play, she is generous and patient, even when the situation does not warrant it. In Act Two, when Rose talks about her life, she uses a metaphor about planting: "I took all my feelings, my wants and needs, my dreams
and I buried them inside you. I planted a seed and watched and prayed over it. I planted myself inside you and waited to bloom. And it didn't take me no eighteen years to find out the soil was hard and rocky and it wasn't never gonna bloom. But I held on to you, Troy" (Wilson 71). When Rose told Troy that she took her feelings, wants, needs and dreams and buried them inside him, she was telling him that she'd given her life for their marriage and their family. She put his needs consistently and the needs of their children over hers. In Fences, Troy was the dreamer, and Rose was the realist. Where Troy still imagined a time when he was major league baseball material, and longed for those days, Rose held fast in the present, deflecting Troy's negative behavior and trying to keep the peace. In her own way, Rose felt that her optimism about their life as it was in the present could overcome Troy's dreams and thoughts about the past. But as she noted, there was never a bloom. He never came to that realization. Rose made a stand that was uncommon in her day. Although she suspected her husband of being unfaithful, she stayed with him. But when she found that her husband had impregnated his mistress, she told him that she would no longer live with him as his wife, and they lived separate lives. When his mistress died in childbirth, Rose adopted their daughter as her own, and took care of her, only allowing Troy to provide for them as he always had. As stated in Understanding August Wilson, Rose realized that "financial security is only a portion of the equation and that it can simultaneously take away what it also provides" (Bogumil 50). Rose was about twenty years Troy's junior when they married. At the time, she equated the stability of their household and the fact that they did have more than others with love. As she grew to realize the distinction, she gave up on love for comfort until she found that Troy and Alberta were having a child. Then she made a stand for herself and her family. Rose realized where she went wrong in her marriage after Troy's death. She told her son Cory that she'd made the error of not making Troy think of her. "When your daddy walked through the house he was so big he filled it up. That was my first mistake. Not to make him leave some room for me" (Wilson 98). She admits...
Cited: Bogumil, Mary L. Understanding August Wilson. Columbia: University of South
Carolina Press, 1999. 34-49.
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DeCosta-Willis, Miriam. Avenging Angels and Mute Mothers: Black Southern Women
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Whatley-Smith, Virginia. Rev. of Richard Wright: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed.
Arnold Rampersad. ¬African American Review 31.1 (1997): 148-151.
Wilson, August. Fences. New York: Plume, 1986.
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