Fences

293

Social Differences Depicted in “Fences”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Divides Made By Fences Built

By definition, the structure of a fence is said to be a barrier that controls access or prevents escape from a specific area. In August Wilson’s Fences, this definition stands for much larger boundaries being set within each character’s interpersonal relationships. The idea of fences being built defines most of the central conflicts within the play from a metaphorical standpoint. The extremely unhealthy social enclosures that Troy Maxson’s character forms between his family and friends will ultimately push them all away, leaving him the sole object of isolation.

The only literal fence in the story is one that Troy’s wife Rose wants him to build around their yard. Troy is very uncommitted to building the fence, much like his lack of commitment to his wife and marriage. Instead of working on this project he goes out and cheats on his wife. The purposeful barrier constructed by this affair is explained by Troy with, “…She gives me a different idea…a different understanding about myself. I can step out of this house and get away from the pressures and the problems…be a different man” (Wilson 1316). He sees his affair as a way to escape, when in actuality it just solidifies the divide between him and his wife. Ironically, the very idea of building the fence in the yard can be seen as Rose’s attempt to keep her family unified. Troy’s friend Bono, who is the only person who knows about the affair initially, tries to explain this to the uncomprehending Troy, “Some people build fences to keep people out…and other people build fences to keep people in. Rose wants to hold onto you all. She loves you” (1312). The fence in the yard is only seen as a finished project after Troy’s mistress dies in childbirth with their daughter Raynell. This is an important reflection on who Troy is as a person because he only decides to commit to this simple task for his wife once his other options are off the table. The affair was a hold that he had on himself, completely locking him out of the family obligations he should have been committed to all along. By this time, his wife wants nothing to do with him from a marriage position. Rose communicates that she will help raise the baby but that as a result of his actions he is now, “a womanless man” (1321).

Troy has conflicting relationships with his sons, Lyons and Cory, throughout the play. The reasoning behind each dynamic is different but both are unhealthy and turbulent because of Troy. His oldest son, Lyons, who he had through a previous marriage can be seen as a business transaction relationship from the surface. The only time they interact is on payday when Lyons comes to borrow money from his father. There is a negative tension between the two over this loan routine because Lyons is a musician and Troy thinks he should get a decent job. Upon offering to get him a spot at his own place of employment hauling garbage, Lyons tells his father, “I don’t want to be carrying nobodies rubbish. I don’t wanna be pushing nobodies time clock” (1292). This upsets Troy because obviously hauling garbage wasn’t his ideal career either but he has to make money somehow so he tells Lyons, “Where you think that ten dollars you talking about come from? I’m suppose to haul people’s rubbish and give my money to you because you too lazy to work” (1292). Troy blames his son’s lack of work ethic on how his mother must have raised him. Lyons informs his once absentee father that, “If you wanted to change me, you should have been there when I was growing up” (1292). Throughout Lyon’s childhood, a jail yard fence kept his father from being in his life and this is the foundation for all of their personal conflicts with each other. He missed 30 years of his son’s life due to the barrier of prison and because of that their relationship is strained beyond repair.

The relationship that Troy has with his younger son Cory is a lot more volatile compared to his with Lyons. Cory is a high school football star, and the once athletic Troy resents this. Troy had to miss out on going professional due to his age and race at the peak of his skills. This shapes a bitterness in Troy that he has chose to take out on his son since birth as he explains, “ I decided 17 years ago that boy wasn’t getting involved in no sports. Not after what they did to me in the sports” (1302). Rose is an advocate for wanting to allow Cory to continue with his football aspirations and tries to explain to Troy, “Times have changed from when you was young Troy. People change. The world’s changing around you and you can’t even see it” (1303). The problem is, is that Troy doesn’t want to see it. He says he doesn’t want his son to go through what he went through but when it all comes down to it, he is jealous that Cory has these opportunities that he himself never had. As a result, he tries to control everything encompassing Cory’s life to try and hold him back from becoming more than Troy ever could. After he forces Cory to quit the team, Cory begins to read through the lines regarding his father’s demeanor towards him and says, “’Just cause you didn’t have a chance! You just scared I’m gonna be better than you” (1311). This is strike one to Troy after hearing this blow to his inflamed ego. This is a pivotal moment because it signifies the further downward spiral of their relationship. A few months later after all the affair business is out in the open, the divide between father and son is permanently set after a physical altercation. Upon telling Cory to get our of his house, a symbolic dialogue is exchanged. Cory says to his father, “Tell Mama I’ll be back for my things” and Troy coldly responds with, “They’ll be on the other side of that fence” (1325). This not only symbolizes the wall built between them up until this point, but the forever rift between them that follows.

As Troy destroys his relationships with his family, he consistently sill has his friend Bono in his corner. They met in prison and are bonded because of that experience. However, Bono is the first person to find out about Troy having extramarital relations and this causes a distance between the longtime friends. Bono expresses his concerns about Troys questionable decisions as he tries to enlighten him with, “I remember when you met Rose…That was the first time I knew you had any sense. I said…My man Troy knows what he’s doing…I’m gonna follow this nigger…he might take me somewhere…I done learned a whole heap about life watching you…Rose a good woman, Troy” (1312-13). Bono, up until this point has idealized Troy into being this great guy, someone he looks up to and respects. All this is essentially lost when Troy destroys him family, the main thing Bono based this respect for him on. He stops coming by the house to visit Troy and the seldom times he does their communication is short and has clearly evolved from a best friendship to a simple acquaintanceship, if that. Troy points this out on one of the occasions and states, “You ain’t stopped by in a month of Sundays. Hell, I must owe you money or something” (1323). Bono blames the lack of interaction on Troys new position at work claiming, “Since you got your new promotion at work I can’t keep up with you. Used to see you everyday and now I don’t even know what route you’re working” (1323). It is evident that the real underlying reason is that who Troy is as a person is not this great guy Bono once believe him to be. Bono sees his true colors and no longer wants to follow Troy because where he is headed is not anywhere positive.

Slowly but surely, Troy Maxson destroys all of this relationships by means of metaphorical fences. A structure that is meant to ideally keep people secure becomes the complete opposite for their deteriorating family. He loses his wife a as a result of some childish whim to escape his responsibilities. He loses his sons because he is selfish, resentful, and controlling. He loses his best friend once he sees all the hurt Troy is capable of causing. It is only after Troy’s death that the family really comes together as one entity again. Once all congregated inside the confines of the home and fence, they wait for his funeral. Troy is finally forever fenced out by mortality. Strike three, he’s out.

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255

Relationships and Self-improvement in “Fences”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

As Ernest Hemingway once said, “The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting you’re special too.” It is common for people to lose themselves in relationships. It is easy to take on certain personality traits of a partner and believe that it is a part of who you are and your personality. Relationships can be hard and sometimes they demand that you compromise your needs for your partners. Some relationships can make you feel trapped, and this is the case in August Wilson’s play, Fences. Troy and Rose have been married for over 20 years and have a loving committed marriage; however, Troy feels trapped like he is “stuck on first base”, so he makes the decision to cheat on Rose. He believes that this new relationship has made him feel alive and special; however he fails to think of Rose’s feelings. Troy’s decisions make him lose the respect of both his wife and his son, Cory. Rose too says that she wanted to leave and feel special, but she didn’t because she was committed to Troy; After a big fight, Rose proclaims that he is woman less man and Cory stands up for his mom. Although both Cory and Rose lose touch with their relationship with Troy, they have evolved into stronger and more independent people because of Troy.

To begin, Cory’s relationship with Troy has built the strong-willed person Cory has become. In the beginning Troy always overshadows everyone. Troy is a person that “fills a room” when he walks in (1647). He is the center of attention. Troy refuses to let anyone else have a different opinion or standpoint; it is Troy’s way or no way. Troy is stubborn and refuses to admit when he is wrong. This is shown in Cory’s relationship with him. Cory, who had been playing football to get into college, asked his dad to sign a permission slip from a recruiter to play for a college team. Cory understood that he could get into college by playing football; however, Troy refused to acknowledge that anyone could be right except for him. Troy is stuck in the past and believes that Cory does not have a chance to make it in football. Even though Cory knows this is his way into college, Troy will not listen to his son and refuses to let him be on the football team. When Cory stands up for himself and confronts his dad he is given a “strike” (1630). Troy approaches Cory and says “you done made a mistake”; however, Cory protests and claims he did not make a mistake (1630). Troy gives him a strike for standing up for himself and this is when Cory knows that his dad is wrong. This is the turning point in Cory and Troy’s relationship. Cory can understand that standing up for himself isn’t wrong, it is just not what his dad wants. Cory now understands that even though his dad is loud and overbearing, he will not try to understand others; he will only think about himself. These strikes have continuously beat down Cory and Troy has further discouraged him by saying that even though he provides for Cory he does not have to like him. The strikes discourage any behavior Troy doesn’t like. The strikes are used to control Cory; however the strikes are the downfall of Troy’s control over Cory. The final strike is what sets Cory off to becoming strong-willed and independent. After standing up for himself and his mom and calling out Troy’s wrongdoings, Cory is told to leave the house. Troy tells him that “if he want to come back here, he’s going to have to use bat” (1644). This fight makes Cory fight for himself and for what he believes in. Cory now has the opportunity to become stronger and more independent without the weight of his dad on him all the time. Troy was like “a shadow that followed you everywhere. It weighed on you and sunk into your skin” for Cory. The relationship between Cory and Troy gave Cory the motivation and drive to become stronger and fight for himself.

Furthermore, not only did Cory grow as a person because of his relationship with Troy, but so did Rose. Troy had a very loud personality, and often overshadowed Rose. Rose told Cory that “when your daddy walked through the house, he was so big he filled it” (1647). Troy is always telling ridiculous stories and not thinking of others. He constantly talks about how much he gives and does not consider what other people give to him. Rose and Troy’s relationship makes Rose realize that she is strong and special too. Rose has had to give up a lot to be with Troy. When Troy tells her that he has cheated on her, she screams “I took all my feelings, my wants and needs, my dreams and buried them inside you… 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 going to bloom” (1636). Even though Rose gave all of her wants and dreams to Troy, she knew that they would not become a reality; she gave up on her dreams to stay with Troy. Rose gave so much to Troy, and he did not appreciate it. After this fight, Rose sticks up for herslf and becomes stronger. Once Troy asks her to mother his new child, she says she will do it, but he is still a womanless man. Rose continues to grow without Troy and plants herself somewhere else. She is able to become more independent and get her own job because her relationship with Troy has made her more driven.

It is easy to lose aspects of ourselves in others. When we are close to someone, our personalities tend to meld and we forget who we are without the other. Cory is able to become stronger because of his relationship with Troy. He is able to recognize the need to stand up for himself and others. Rose too changes because of Troy. Without being overshadowed because of him, Rose is able to become more independent. The people that we are surrounded by shape our personalities and who we are. Rose and Cory were able to grow and change because they made a change in who they wanted to be apart of their lives.

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205

The African American Cultural and Dominant Views in Fences, a Film by Denzel Washington

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

There were many cultural and dominant views at the time of this production. This play was written in 1985, however, the setting is that of the 50’s and 60’s. Racial implications were certainly present in this film. African American movements were of much importance to both the author and the crew of this play. The author wanted to show audiences the typical life for a black man. Although, the author was of mixed races, black predominated.

When people think of racism, they do not think that it happened in recent times. However, during the 50’s it was still very alive. Segregation was also part of this horrible treatment. Black persons could not attend the same schools, eat at the same places, or sit in the front of the bus. They were not even allowed to vote until the year 1965. The author of this play chose this time, because it was one of the worst. However, it was during this time that many social activists began to work on such issues. Amongst these, is my personal favorite, Martin Luther King Jr. A fearless and courage filled leader that helped the black community, more than any other man.

The dominate opinions of this time was that racism was acceptable. Also, many were disgusted with the interracial relationships. Since the author was of mixed races, this was especially true for him. Many times, mixed persons have a hard time with which side or group to be a part of. Since segregation still happens unnoticeable even in today’s times. It is not mandated, however, still prevails. The author wanted an outlet for the problems he encountered due to the color of his skin. These obstacles were not easy, however, he never lost his cool or treated someone badly the way they did him. We can all learn a thing or two from him.

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157

The In-Depth Analysis of Relationships in “Fences”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

In the play Fences, by August Wilson, a fence represents protection and incomplete or broken relationships. Through the fence, Wilson is trying to show that even things that were once perfect and have gone awry can still be rebuilt.

One way Wilson uses the fence is to represent protection and love. A fence usually keeps things in that people want and separates it from the things that they don’t want. A fence also is a separation between two or more objects or events. In the beginning of the play, the fence is broken which represents that the family has problems with their relationship to each other. Troy and Cory have different points of view. Cory wants to play football and in order for him to play at his school, he decides to stop working everyday and only work on the weekends. Troy does not agree and says that Cory is “a bigger fool” than he thought and that he needs to get his job back at the A&P (36). If Cory can’t both work and play football, he is told that he will have to quit the football team. Troy said this to Cory because he does not want Cory to become a garbage man like he is or become unemployed. Troy uses the word “fool” because he tried to do the same thing when he was young. Troy is trying to help Cory understand that he doesn’t want him to live the same way he had to. He does this for Cory’s own good, but Cory does not realize this. Cory feels that his father is just trying to ruin his life and not let him have fun. This relates to the fence because even though Troy wants to fix the fence and keep it in good shape, it will always become broken again. This means that even though Troy may want something to happen a certain way, it may not always happen that way. At this time in the play, the fence is bent and broken just like Troy and Cory’s relationship.

Wilson also uses the fence to represent incomplete relationships. Troy has been cheating on Rose and causes their relationship to become incomplete. During this time, the fence is broken and bent just like their relationship. Troy has been ignoring Rose and he doesn’t tell her that he was seeing someone else until he made the other person pregnant. Overall, Troy has been causing his relationship with Rose to bend and break. Rose feels that the only real person who cares and would “be a fence around” her every day is Jesus (21). She feels that because Troy isn’t being good to her, that the only person who can be a barrier to all the bad things is Jesus. Troy’s relationship with Cory is also broken because he is also ignoring Cory and not being there when he needs him.

Not only does the fence represent broken relationships, but it also represents the regrowth of relationships. Rose and Troy have a broken relationship because Troy cheated on her and had a baby with someone else. When Troy cheats on Rose, he tries to hide it from her, but when he finds out he is having a baby with the other person, he tells her. Rose, however, does not divorce Troy because if she did, most likely she would be living on the streets. She would be living on the streets because she would not have anybody to support her and she would have no income. Also, she believes that if she hadn’t married Troy, she could have been in an abusive relationship. Rose says that she has known people who have married someone who is abusive and even though Troy isn’t the best husband, she realizes that he is also not the worst. When the baby, Raynell, is born, her mother dies in labor. Troy then asks Rose if she would raise the child with him. When Rose accepts, she tells Troy, “This child got a mother. But you a womanless man” (79). This means that she is not going to forgive Troy anymore and she will start to hold things against him. It also means that she is going to always forgive and take care of Raynell. Troy fixes the fence when Raynell was born. Raynell brought Rose peace. Raynell made Rose feel like a person and that she was loved. It also helped her have the feelings that she never had with Troy. When Raynell was looking at her garden, she wondered why it hadn’t grown yet. Rose tells her that she needs to wait and have patience, but that she knows it will grow eventually. Rose, herself, had to be patient with Troy in order to grow. Rose was like a seed, and Troy was like the sun. A little bit of sun helps a seed grow, but with no water and/or too much sunlight, the seed will not grow. When Raynell was born, she was like the rain to a flower; without water, a plant cannot grow. Raynell helped Rose grow and caused Troy to stop criticizing and stopping Rose from doing things. This was when the fence was complete. Because Raynell was born, Rose had someone who she could talk to and who would truly listen to her. This represents the fence because in the beginning, relationships were broken and Rose felt as if she was just “there” and had no true purpose, but when Raynell was born, Rose was able to talk and realize that she did have a purpose.

Overall, the fence represented growth, destruction, and regrowth. When the fence was broken and bent, the relationships were broken and bent. The relationships also were not complete. However, when the fence was complete, the relationships were peaceful, complete, and they brought out the best in people. In the end, Wilson is successful in reminding the audience that even things that were once perfect and have gone awry can still be rebuilt.

 

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354

The Analysis of Troy Character in “Fences”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

August Wilson’s Fences is a classic play about African-American life written in 1983 and set sometime in the 1950s. It serves as the sixth installment in Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle,” which spans ten installments in total. Fences is a period piece during a decade through which Wilson had personally lived by the time he wrote the play, which makes it more than presumable that he likely pulled from real-life experiences and observations to create such a realistic portrayal of Blacks in the ‘50s. His protagonist, Troy Maxson, is widely considered by Black Baby Boomers to be a very relatable, perhaps even archetypal character of the Black community from that era, but Wilson delves deeply into the psyche of the character to reveal all of Troy’s dimensions, elucidating what would otherwise be the mysteries of a misunderstood character of the 1950s.

Troy works as a garbage collector for the Sanitation Department to provide for his wife, Rose, and his teenage son, Corey. Troy has settled into a rhythm of life that hinges on a very grim outlook, but he prefers it because he has endured too many upsets in life thus far. He was something of a baseball star in the Negro Leagues, but he was barred from playing in the Major Leagues, first because he was Black and subsequently because he was too old by the time integration began. He, therefore, represents a common criticism of Jackie Robinson in the Black community that, despite the barriers Robinson broke, he was hardly the best Black player that could have broken them down. Troy represents that perspective and even says outright at one point, “I done seen a hundred niggers play better than Jackie Robinson. Hell, I know some teams Jackie Robinson couldn’t even make!” (Wilson i.i). Now, Troy proves to be a character predisposed toward hyperbole, but this remains a relatable statement for many African Americans alive today who, perhaps as children, heard these sentiments bandied about with much fervor at the time.

Troy represents a Black archetype, but Jackie Robinson serves as a sort of unseen character in the story due to the many references throughout the play to his abilities and the barriers he broke. Robinson represents both in the story and in reality a successful challenge to traditional norms and, more importantly, historic change. No doubt, August Wilson was of a generation thoroughly influenced by the change of discourse that Robinson effected in the latter half of the twentieth century. New Historicism is a lens of literary criticism that defines the term, discourses, as “ways of seeing and talking about the world” (Dobie 181). The discourse in the era of Fences is mid-shift, changing from one that not only segregated Blacks and Whites on a subaltern level but also segregated their ambitions as well. Lives for African Americans were changing because they were able to dream the same dreams as their White counterparts and pursue those dreams (i.e. professional sports).

Troy’s son, Corey Maxson, is very much a product of August Wilson’s generation. He is influenced by the shifting discourse in America at the time, and he, therefore, is committed to the dream of pursuing a professional career in football, which is rapidly eclipsing baseball as the American pastime. Corey has been offered a scholarship to play football in college, and Rose nurtures this ambition, seeing it as an opportunity to, at the very least, go to college and further his education if not also ultimately play for the NFL. Troy, on the other hand, is quintessentially unsupportive, and for some, it can be frustrating to read or watch on stage without understanding the true psychological drive behind Troy’s reasoning.

Carl Jung furthered what is termed neo-Freudian psychology as a student and, as some call him, a successor of Sigmund Freud. Jung purported that “we must deal with three powerful archetypes that compose the self. They are the shadow, the anima, and the persona” (Dobie 64). Jungian psychoanalysis defines the shadow as the side of the self that one does not wish to confront, likening it to a villain of sorts or the devil within. The anima (for men; animus for women), on the other hand, is the driving force that wills an individual to act, and Jung suggested this anima is female for men—the animus male for women—to indicate it as a characteristic of the opposite sex within a person and to suggest that people are often only aware of this opposite sex in dreams (a Freudian concept) or by projecting it onto someone else in reality. Finally, the persona is most akin to Freud’s idea of the ego; it is external mask one portrays to others as an accurate representation of the self. Jung believed that, to achieve individuation (i.e. well-adjusted, psychological health), one must discover and accept one’s different sides of self.

Troy comes up short of individuation because he has not accepted all sides of self, though all are present and observable in the play. Troy is constantly expressing his love for Rose in the most grandiose ways in front of Bono, Corey, Gabe, and Lyons alike. He is vivacious around her and claims that she is the center of his world in one way or another, but he refuses in the process to concede that he is unfaithful to her. He cheats on her with a woman from work whom the audience never sees, and Bono confronts him about it multiple times. In fact, one of the most classic lines of the whole production comes from Bono’s answer to Troy about why the fence Rose wants Troy to build is so important. Bono says, “Some people build fences to keep people out… and other people build fences to keep people in” (Wilson). Troy stubbornly responds that he does not need anyone to tell him that his wife loves him. The side of him that betrays the woman he genuinely seems to love is a side of himself with which he cannot come to terms or even acknowledge.

Meanwhile, Rose is most certainly the woman on whom Troy projects his anima. She gives him the impetus to get up and go to work every day. Troy’s unseen mistress can easily be mistaken for the projection of his anima in that Troy admits that she enables him to feel good about himself, but this is not a move to action. Troy receives, for all intents and purposes, his will to live from his relationship with Rose. His infidelity, however, is evidence that he has lost sight of just how crucial Rose is to the makeup of his individual self, which is an oversight that only further exacerbates his lack of individuation. He has, instead, confected a lively and highly opinionated persona for himself that is allegedly self-sufficient, faithful, and supportive. The latter is just as much a lie as the two former since he does not support his son’s ambition based on the illusion he has created for himself that the White man will not let any Black man achieve anything since he never achieved his own ambitions.

August Wilson extrapolates these three dimensions from this character, perhaps from real-life experiences with similar people, and highlights them for the audience. This makes Troy a very complex, three-dimensional character, befitting his corresponding Black archetype. Jungian psychoanalysis is also commonly referred to in literary theory as mythological criticism, however, which deals specifically with literary archetypes, and Wilson uses them extensively in the play. For example, mythological literary criticism establishes gardens as symbols of innocence much like the Garden of Eden, and when the audience is introduced in the final act to Raynell, Troy’s daughter born out of wedlock, she is tending to a small garden in the backyard for Rose. This alludes to Troy’s primary argument as to why Rose should help him raise her on the basis that, despite his sins, Raynell is innocent and, therefore, does not deserve to be abandoned just because her mother dies in labor. Similarly, Wilson fits Rose to a relatively common archetype among female figures like Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, Aphrodite of Greek mythology, or Isis of Egyptian mythology. The audience likely expects Troy to bring Raynell to her when he does because the audience has come to associate her with nurturance and fertility.

One of the primary archetypes with whom Troy interacts, though, is the devil, even if only figuratively. Troy repeatedly invokes an unseen personification of death, challenging some harbinger thereof to come and get him. Mythological criticism loosely analyses the devil as simply an evil of sorts that intrudes into characters’ lives to either destroy or tempt them. Wilson has no use for its in-depth, Faustian roots, but he certainly employs the archetype to presage Troy’s death.

Carl Jung died in 1961, and it was during the twentieth century that his neo-Freudian work served as a sort of springboard for many further advancements in the field of psychology. New Historicism would not overlook the fact that August Wilson lived during the time that Jung’s work was still heavily influencing the field, and by the 1980s, the adaptation of Jung’s work for literary application (beginning with Northrop Frye in the 1950s) had seen three decades of development and was likely just on the cusp of being proliferated nationwide throughout several more collegiate programs. There is substantial evidence in Wilson’s work to suggest that he was privy to and influenced by the emergence of psychoanalytical literary theory, and his characters appear that much fuller for it.

Works Cited

Dobie, Ann B. Theory into Practice: An Introduction to Literary Criticism. 4th ed. Boston: Thomson Heinle, 2015. Print.

Wilson, August. Fences. New York City: Plume, 1986. Print

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155

Rose – the Central Character of the Topic of Rights of African Americans

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Rose, in the Midst of Changes

In the course of an enduring history of segregation in the United States, there 1950’s was one of the times when African Americans actively fought for equal rights. Many African American men, such as Martin Luther King Jr. who is famous for the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-56), played a crucial role. African American women, who were under a dual burden, were also going through changes, although not as visible as men’s. August Wilson, an American playwright, wrote Fences in 1986, which portrays an African American family living in 1950’s. Rose, one of the main characters, is the wife of Troy, who is a black garbage truck driver. Rose has to support her talkative but authoritative husband who always complains of his failed dream as a baseball player and grudgingly blames segregation for his failures. She has to act as a mediator in the conflicts between her husband and her son. She even has to put up with Troy cheating on her and later even asks her to raise the out-of- wedlock child. Rose matches up with other African American women in the 1950’s because she sacrifices herself, she is not sexually protected, and yet she is independent.

Rose is sacrificial, like other black women. Even though movements for African American’s rights were ongoing, many black women’s rights were still vulnerable. Sacrifice was a deep- rooted characteristic in African American women due to racism and sexism. Rose’s tasks are endless. Not only is Rose a housewife doing laundry and preparing meals, she is also a caregiver and problem solver for nearly everyone in the family. Rose acts as a mediator every time when Cory, who is born between Rose and Troy, is in conflict with his dad and when their first son Lyon, who was born from Troy’s previous wife, is in bad terms with his dad. She is also concerned with and takes care of Gabriel, Troy’s brother who is mentally retarded after an accident in the army. Despite all her hard works as a mom and a wife, Troy tells her that he was seeing another woman. Then, Rose angrily says to Troy, “I done tried to be everything a wife should be. Everything a wife could be.” (2.1.235-236) Even when Troy brings the baby born by the woman he is cheating with, and asks Rose to take care of the baby, Rose accepts to raise the baby. Rose is not alone in her sacrifices as a woman. In his paper, “Mammies and Matriarchs: Tracing Images of the Black Female in Popular Culture 1950s to Present.”, Sewell probes the popular culture of 1950’s to look at the imagery of black women. Most women described by the pop culture are seen as “constant source of help” (Sewell). Rather than as individual women, black women of 1950s, like Rose, were regarded as mothers and wives who had to devote their lives to their family.

Rose’s sexuality is not protected, like other black women in the 1950’s. Rose is not raped or sexually abused outside her home in the play, unlike many black women. Nor does Troy sexually abuse Rose. However, Troy’s attitude and speech toward Rose indicates that Troy does not respect Rose’s sexuality. It seems that Rose has no power over her sexual life, and Troy is the one in control. In the presence of his friend Bono, Troy frequently disclosed parts of his sexual life with Rose, which needs privacy without the consent of the other party. Troy puts his arm around Rose and says to Bono, “Don’t you come by my house Monday morning talking about time to go to work… cause I’m still gonna be stroking!” He continued his conduct even though Rose rebuked him saying, “Troy! Stop it now!” (1.1.536-543) This does not happen once. Troy again in front of Bono said, “Is supper ready woman? Me and you got some business to take care of. I’m gonna tear it up too.” Rose responded, “Troy, I done told you now!” (1.4.437-439) One might see this as just playful jokes that mean nothing. Yet, Meyer Leyser in her paper, “Strange Love”: Searching for Sexual Subjectivities in Black Print Popular Culture during the 1950s, analyzes several articles, letters and other print cultures to look at the subjectivity and the distorted image of African American women’s sexuality. In 1951 a paper written by unnamed author, titled “Sexual Habits of Negro Women” claimed that African American women are “extraordinarily sensual. Other printed pieces insinuate that black women were more sexually deviant and not sexually respectful (Meyer). This indicates that sexuality of black women in the 1950’s was often distorted and not protected as Rose’s sexuality was disrespected by Troy. This contorted image of black women’s sexuality does not end as mere images. These can indicate potential sexual abuse or harassment done to black women. One usually thinks of white male as a sexual aggressor toward black women. However, between 1951 and 1960, out of twenty six sex-crimes in Chicago on trial, nineteen cases, which is 73 percent, included African American victims testifying against African American defendants except for one case (Flood). As the study showed, African American men’s not respecting the sexuality of black women has close relationship with sex-crimes. Therefore, Rose and other African American women’s sexuality were not respected and protected in the 1950’s.

Despite her sacrifices and sexual vulnerability, she was as independent as other African American women. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “independent” means not subject to control by others; not requiring or relying on others; showing a desire for freedom. After Troy revealed that he was having an affair, Rose clearly showed her desire for freedom. This could be seen when Rose cried out to Troy during their argument, “I got a life too. I gave eighteen years of my life to stand in the same spot with you. Don’t you think I ever wanted other things? Don’t you think I had dreams and hopes? What about my life? What about me.”(2.1.326-330) Even though she has been putting up with her life, her suppressed wants for freedom were finally exploded. Desperate wants for freedom do not only apply to Rose. According to Feldstein Ruth in her writing, ““The World Was On Fire”: Black Women Entertainers And Transnational Activism In The 1950s.”, the female activist-entertainers among whom is Maya Angelou, “drew attention to unequal relationships between blacks and whites and to relationships between men and women.” The black women shouted for freedom as wives and as African Americans via entertainment (Feldstein 1-2). In an economic sense, many African American women were independent as well. In his paper, Craig W. Heinicke focuses on the changes in the labor force of African American married women in the South from 1950 to 1960. His observations tell that while the labor force participation rates of African males dropped from 79.3% to 73.9%, the female labor force rose from 37.1% to 39% between 1950 and 1960 (Heinicke). This “independence” of black women indicates the shifting change of women in the 1950’s which was the time right before the passionate activism of blacks. Rose was a black woman in the midst of those shifting moments, shifting from a sacrificial housewife to an independent woman.

In conclusion, as a remnant of racial and gender inequality, Rose, along with other African American women, was sacrificial in her family and her sexuality was not respected. However, at the same time, they were, or were becoming independent women. Women spoke for their freedom inside and outside their home. Some of them were even financially independent. In the mainstream transition, visibly led by black male activists during the 1950’s, women were also changing. As Rose portrayed the black woman both before and after the changes, she is a typical African American woman in the 1950’s.

Works Cited

Feldstein, Ruth. ““The World Was on Fire”: Black Women Entertainers and Transnational Activism in the 1950s.” OAH Magazine of History 26.4 (2012): 25-29. America: History and Life with Full Text. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. http://ezp.tccd.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=31h&AN=82109157&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Flood, Dawn Rae. “”THEY DIDN’T TREAT ME GOOD”: African American Rape Victims and Chicago Courtroom Strategies during the 1950s.” Journal of Women’s History 17.1 (2005): 38,61,210. ProQuest. Web. 2 Mar. 2016 http://ezp.tccd.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/203247419?accountid=7079

Heinicke, Craig W. “One Step Forward: African-American Married Women in the South, 1950-1960.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 31.1 (2000): 43-62. America: History and Life with Full Text. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. http://ezp.tccd.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db

Meyer, Leisa D. “”Strange Love”: Searching for Sexual Subjectivities in Black Print Popular Culture during the 1950s.” Feminist Studies 38.3 (2012): 625,657,784. ProQuest. Web. 29 Feb. 2016 http://ezp.tccd.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezp.tccd.edu/docview/1283329491?accountid=7079

Sewell, Christopher. “Mammies And Matriarchs: Tracing Images Of The Black Female In Popular Culture 1950S To Present.” Journal Of African American Studies 17.3 (2013): 308-326. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. http://ezp.tccd.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=89411308&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Wilson, August. Fences. Literature Craft and Voice. 2nd ed. Eds. Nicholas Delbanco and Alan Cheuse. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. 1489-1530. Print.

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The Power of Blood Ties in “Fences”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

A man lives his life and evolves over time; he embodies a synthesis of all his experiences with those he meets over his lifetime. What he sees when he finally meets the son he helps bring into this world for the first time is unique to who he is and what he is. His thoughts are often of how he grew up and of the man his own father was; often he tells himself that this time it will be different and that he will be different than his own father. Nowhere are these complexities more apparent than in the lives of America-based fathers and sons who grow up in separate worlds – and all this within the shadow of the mainstream culture. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and Fences by August Wilson represent the growing pains of two very different families, but hold within the similar theme of the lasting, complex effects of relationships between fathers and sons.

Troy Maxson is the protagonist of the play Fences who is born a son to a freeman. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States…” (US Const. amend. XIII, 1865) The story sets him as a teenager in the early 1900’s; therefore, his father is at least the descendant of a slave. The play does not specify the details, but with slavery’s abolition in 1865, the probability that his dad is actually a previously freed slave, as opposed to being born free, is very likely especially given Troy’s story of how he left his father, “The only part of the world I knew was the forty-two acres of Mr. Lubin’s land… I was through with farming… So I walked the two hundred miles to Mobile.” (Wilson, pg. 916) He becomes his own man early in life due to his harsh example of a father born of a dark chapter of American history, when slavery was still a relatively recent memory. His rocky upbringing leaves him with little choice and propels him to seek a new life.

Troy’s parental psychology is in many ways the product of the lingering and lasting consequences of the evils of slavery in the United States. “The only thing my daddy cared about was getting them bales of cotton in to Mr. Lubin. That’s the only thing that mattered to him.” (Wilson, pg. 914) Growing up with that sort of mentality makes Troy the father he eventually becomes later. Here, there is no better example of the care-about-nothing-else, work-hard ethic that becomes the core of how he views the world and his responsibilities as his lasting inheritance. He sees his own role as to do whatever is necessary to be the “bread-winner”, and that is his only true goal in life as he comes to know it for himself; he is bound by the only means which he inherits, the sweat of his own hard labor.

He fails to be much for Lyons, his eldest son, who rebukes him, “I’m thirty-four years old. If you wanted to change me, you should have been there when I was growing up.” (Wilson, pg. 898) With a relationship that’s tenuous at best with Lyons, his tough love becomes greater with his younger son, Cory. “I don’t want him to be like me! I want him to move as far away from my life as he can get.” (Wilson, pg. 909) Troy is adamant about destroying any attempt to turn sports into a career, but he makes it abundantly clear that he does have the best of intentions. He drills Cory into being a responsible young man and continues to push him to ensure that he is a good, honest, hard worker. He believes, from his experiences and who he is, that no black man will ever make it in the white world of American sports.

Similar to Troy Maxson in at least sharing in concern for his son’s future success, Ashoke Ganguli is profoundly thoughtful and nurturing in Lahiri’s novel. “[He] looks on from one side, his wife’s suitcase in hand, smiling with his head lowered. “Gogol enters the world,” [Ashoke] will eventually write…” (Lahiri, pg. 29) At the very start, at the birth of his son, Ashoke is the type of father we are more quick to recognize and accept. He is the kind of man who wears his learned nature as a scholar and professor at an esteemed university quite well. His deep intellect shines through as he names his son after a brilliant writer that ties him in with his own past: a very personal background story that he waits and hopes to eventually reveal much later to his son one day when the time is right. He sees his son as a magnificent gift that he is given from surviving a terrible accident that almost took his life. In his son, he sees the wonders of life reborn and immediately makes the connection with his choice of naming him Gogol.

Being born of a very different cultural identity, Ashoke is often cautiously apprehensive with Gogol’s maturation and takes steps not to lose his deeper connections to his son. “[Ashoke and his wife, Ashima,] send him to Bengali language and culture lessons every other Saturday… For when Ashima and Ashoke close their eyes it never fails to unsettle them, that their children sound just like Americans, expertly conversing in a language that still at times confounds them, in accents they are accustomed not to trust.” (Lahiri, pg. 65) Bengali culture is important as a basis for how he raises his kids, and though he is open to them assimilating into America, he feels that if they lose connection to their heritage then they will also likely lose their familial ties to one another. Traditions, family, community, and India form the building blocks to his relationship with his children.

Friction inevitably ensues when two worlds collide, as cultural differences and resulting issues have a way of sneaking themselves into the lives and relationships of fathers and sons. “I don’t get it. Why did you have to give me a pet name in the first place? What’s the point? …it’s not even a Bengali name… How could you guys name me after someone so strange?” (Lahiri, pgs. 99-100) Ashoke is still waiting for the right moment when he feels that Gogol is ready to know his deeply personal reasons and connection to the name. “Then change it… In America anything is possible. Do as you wish.” (Lahiri, pg. 100) Instead of telling outright why his name means so much to himself, Ashoke shows his persevering patience in his fathering style and also positively reinforces his son’s continuance of assimilation into American ways and values above his own feelings. This is a trait that sets him far apart from Troy Maxson; Ashoke acquiesces to his son’s wishes whereas Troy dictates his exact demands.

Much can be said about Ashoke’s cultured Bengali ways: even though he is kind, caring, and relatively nurturing, Ashoke remains steadfast in his characteristic reservation about personal expression of emotions. It becomes difficult to finally tell Gogol of his name’s importance. “[He] is not the type to admit such things, to speak openly of his desires, his moods, his needs… “I want to tell you something… It’s about your name…” He tells him about the night that had nearly taken his life, and the book that saved his life, and about the year afterward, when he’d been unable to move.” (Lahiri, pgs. 122-123) So in truth, Ashoke’s waiting for the right time did not solely depend on whether or not Gogol was ready to know, but is more profoundly a reflection of his own long buildup of his collective state of readiness; his feelings on this deep personal matter, much like the original intention of the Bengali utterance of pet names, are so immensely private in meaning that he could not express himself until he was absolutely ready. Ashoke finally releases his legacy and loving connection to his son as he views him, a cherished gift and blessing.

It is often said that we don’t fully appreciate those we love and their meaning and message until we lose them. “His father had always been particular about turning off the radio. In fact, there is no sign of his father in the car… [Gogol] shuts off the radio, drives in silence through the cold, bleak afternoon, through the flat, charmless town… wondering if this route is the same one his father had taken when he drove himself to the hospital.” (Lahiri, pgs. 173-174) Gogol feels the connection to his father now suddenly and irrevocably cut from his existence, the silence in his father’s rental car now oddly deafening to his soul and being. He remembers the little things his dad used to do and how he did them, and the absence of those things in the car is the realization of the fact that he is no more.

The absence of his father finally triggers his complete understanding. “The Short Stories of Nikolai Gogol. “For Gogol Ganguli,” “The man who gave you his name, from the man who gave you your name” …He wonders if he will be married again one day, if he will ever have a child to name… the book he had once forsaken, has abandoned until now. Until moments ago it was destined to disappear from his life altogether, but he has salvaged it by chance, as his father was pulled from a crushed train forty years ago… For now, he starts to read.” (Lahiri, pgs. 288-291) The impact of his father is now in his full recognition. Forever the deep intellect of his parent transcends all boundaries, as his own namesake entwines with the life and memory of Ashoke. He comes to see his life as his father had already seen it all along, in a sense, as though written long before he was even born.

Troy Maxson as a father, like Ashoke Ganguli, burns a lasting legacy into his kids and especially in his son Cory. “The whole time I was growing up … living in this house … Papa was like a shadow that followed you everywhere… That shadow digging in your flesh. Trying to crawl in. Trying to live through you… I’m just saying I’ve got to find a way to get rid of that shadow, Mama.” (Wilson, pg. 939) After seeing his half-sister Raynell and talking to his mother, Cory finally comes to terms with what his father really meant for him; for all Troy was and wasn’t, through his harshness and forcefulness, through his dictations, he too transcends the past and Cory realizes that he meant the best for him and his future. He finally allows himself to go to the funeral with his family.

The everlasting importance and effects of the love found in father-son relationships supersede even death in depth, scope, magnitude, gravity and reach; common love is often kept hidden, private, and convoluted in the context of culturally-enforced notions of masculine psychology and its masking of feelings, desires, wants and needs. Maybe such complexities can best be summed up by sayings that, though simpler than Fences and The Namesake, can at times ring just as true. Love conquers all things; the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Works Cited:

Lahiri, Jhumpa. “The Namesake.” 2004 ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003. Print.

U.S. Constitution. Amendment XIII. 1865.

Wilson, August. “Fences.” Literature A Pocket Anthology. 6th Ed. R. S. Gwynn. Pearson Education, 2015. Page 887. Print.

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248

The Values of Troy Maxon in “Fences”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

In August Wilson’s Fences, Troy Maxson is a man of many flaws. He is human, and like any other human, his experiences throughout life have influenced his decisions and his outlook on life. If we were to have no context on Troy’s life, we would see him as a father who kept his son from pursuing a career in sports, a greedy brother who takes advantage of Gabriel’s disability benefits, and a lying, cheating husband. Although Troy Maxson’s actions have negatively impacted the lives of his family and the people he cares about, he still shines through as a tragic hero. When we think tragic hero, that’s not to compare him to superman, but rather, describe him as a character who has the intentions to carry out good deeds, but allows their flaws, conflicts, and inner struggles to keep them from their fulfilling their goals. This is no justification, but a clarification that even though Troy Maxson is not a perfect person, he seeks to better himself for his loved ones. We as readers watch as Troy does his best to protect his family in the only way he knows how, but ultimately allows himself to become tempted by his inner struggles and causes his own demise.

A major conflict in Fences is how Troy shoots down Cory’s potential career in sports. Based on what we see in the play, it’s evident that Troy kept Cory from pursuing the opportunity to play football to mainly to protect him from racism and discrimination that he believed was still prevalent. Other characters, like Bono and Rose, are quick to remind Troy of how there are “lots of colored boys playing ball now. Baseball and football” (14) because they are convinced that Troy is bitter over losing his chance of playing in the big leagues years ago. Even Cory convinces himself that Troy drove him away from sports as an act done out of spite and jealousy. However, there’s something that Troy says that is overlooked, “I got sense enough not to let my boy get hurt playing no sports” (41). Some may argue that Troy intercepted out of envy, based on his nonsensical reluctance to acknowledge the newfound diversity in sports. However, it’s important to know that Troy grew up with a father who was more of a selfish, reluctant provider than a loving guardian, leaving Troy to fend for himself and navigate through the world blindly while dealing with with racism, poverty, and crime. Troy does his best to protect his family in a way that he knows how, and that is by keeping Cory grounded to reality with a stable job and trades, instead of allowing him to float into the clouds with dreams that are uncertain and temporary. Good parents are described as parents who support their child to pursue their dream, no matter how ridiculous, but isn’t protecting their child a bigger priority? Troy may not express remorse over what he did to Cory’s interview, but he was aware that his actions would benefit Cory’s life in the long run.

As a result of those actions, however, there are misunderstandings and tension that arise between Troy and Cory. Troy thinks Cory is too sensitive and lectures him about the importance of family and hard work over insignificant luxuries, such as a television to watch the game. This seems to drive Cory to develop a sense of loathing of his father, which leads to Cory loss of fear of Troy’s authority, resulting in a few physical altercations. There is evidence that Troy holds himself back from hurting Cory, even then the chance arises. In both circumstances, Troy could have slapped Cory or physically disciplined Cory, but he is aware that he has enough control and respect not to. We see it when “Rose pulls on Troy to hold him back. Troy stops himself” (72) and when “Cory and Troy struggle over the bat. The struggle is fierce and fully engaged. Troy ultimately is the stronger and takes the bat from Cory and stands over him ready to swing. He stops himself” (88). It is said that the abused will eventually become the abusive, but Troy knows how much he wants to end the powerful cycle of family violence he experienced with his father. It may be argued that to even think about hurting your child is harmful enough, but to stop yourself from following that impulse is powerful.

Unfortunately, what ruins his role as a guardian is the temptation he pursues. However, although Troy cheated on Rose with Alberta, he was aware that it was wrong, admitted to it, and was willing to accept the consequences rather than run from his mistakes or make himself the victim. Troy admits to Rose immediately, saying, “It ain’t about nobody being a better woman or nothing. Rose, you ain’t the blame. A man couldn’t ask for no woman to be a better wife than you’ve been. I’m responsible for it” (71). To admit to his faults and accept what punishment is bestowed on him displays more character in Troy than it would if he were to spurn Rose’s generosity and compassion instead. Yes, the act of cheating that Troy committed ultimately caused the break in his chance of redemption from his hard past, but rather than run away from his mistakes or dismissing them completely, he addresses them and does what he can to better himself, which is what makes him a tragic hero. It is no justification for infidelity, but for Troy to admit his tragic flaw and accept his fate is what redeems him.

August Wilson’s main character is an imperfect man. He is hardly a loving father, but his love shines through his actions and his decisions to make those actions. Troy saw Cory was afraid of people disliking him, and took it upon himself to help Cory face reality, far away from sports and television, in order to help him survive in the harsh, prejudiced world they live in as African Americans. Despite Cory’s reluctance to obey his father, Troy refused to lay a violent hand on his son, or anyone for that matter, and did what he could to protect his family without becoming the spitting image of his own father. Overcome by impulse and temptation, Troy succumbs to his flaws, and ruins what he worked so hard to build; a protective fence to keep his family away from harm. Troy Maxson is painted as prideful, and perhaps arrogant and stubborn, but he takes it upon himself to build a protective fence around his family, even if it means protecting them from himself. As Bono says, “some people build fences to keep people out… and other people build fences to keep people in” (61).

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254

Black & White: How the Skin Color May Influence Your Life

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

In the play Fences, written by August Wilson, the theatrical is full of symbolism that shows the meaning to growth and death through; baseball seeds and blues. At the same time, Fences views the African-American experience and relations. Troy an ex-Negro Baseball League player deals with his bitterness that is affecting his family. Fences is the odd man out because it’s about one individual and everything focuses around him. The back yard of an urban home becomes the setting to the Maxson family troubles. Besides, the protagonist Troy Maxson is represented as “the purest strain of the survival instinct in the African-American race” [Pereira, 1995]. Wilson did not name his play, Fences, simply because the dramatic action climaxes strongly on the building of a fence in the Maxson’s backyard, rather the characters lives changing around the fence-building project. The fence serves as both a literal and a figurative device, representing the relationships that bond and break in the arena of the backyard.

As it been said, Fences is against the metaphor of property and its historical meaning, particularly the connection between property rights and human rights, for African Americans; it is full of symbolism. The game of baseball has long been regarded as a metaphor for the American dream – an expression of hope, democratic values, and the drive for individual success. Baseball has become the great repository of national ideals, the symbol of all that is good in American life: fair play-sportsmanship; the rule of law-objective arbitration of disputes; equal opportunity-each side has its innings; the brotherhood of man -bleacher harmony and more. Furthermore, in Fences, by situating Troy within three of baseball’s mythic settings-the garden, the battlefield, and the sacred space – Wilson contradicts the idea of America as a “field of dreams,” using baseball instead as a metaphor for heroic challenge [Herrington, 2002:73].

It is evident that in Fences Wilson uses Troy’s experience in the Negro Leagues to demonstrate that the American dream remained out of reach for people of African descent. When Troy’s friend Jim Bono remarks that Babe Ruth and Josh Gibson were the only players to hit more home runs than Troy, Troy answers, “What it ever get me? Ain’t got a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of” [Wilson, 1986: 9]. Troy’s wife, Rose, and Bono both claim that times have changed since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, that many black players are involved in professional sports now, and that Troy “just come along too early” [9]. To this argument Troy responds indignantly: “There ought not never have been no time called too early! . . .I done seen a hundred niggers play baseball better than Jackie Robinson. Hell, I know some teams Jackie Robinson couldn’t even make! What you talking about Jackie Robinson. Jackie Robinson wasn’t nobody. I’m talking about if you could play ball then they ought to have let you play. Don’t care what color you were. Come telling me I come along too early. If you could play . . . then they ought to have let you play” [Wilson, 1986: 9-10]. Curiously enough, in Fences, Troy aligns himself with “the house of Ruth” rather than with “the house of Robinson,” not only through his overt criticism of Robinson, but through his self-styled image as a slugger. Like Babe Ruth (and his Negro League counterpart, Gibson), Troy has embraced a conservative approach to the sport of baseball, eschewing the running game of Robinson or the spectacular fielding of Mays, and focusing instead on hitting the ball out of the park. Troy says to Bono, “You get one of them fastballs, about waist high, over the outside corner of the plate where you can get the meat of the bat on it … and good god! You can kiss it goodbye” [Wilson, 1986: 10]. By connecting himself with “the house of Ruth”, Troy not only transcends certain racial stereotypes, but he affirms that he can beat the white man at his own game.

Troy’s metaphorical references to Robinson’s brand of baseball help to capture the double consciousness [Du Bois 45] of African American experience; for as a black slugger in a world dominated by whites, Troy inevitably belongs simultaneously to “the house of Ruth” and “the house of Robinson.” He is both an American and a black man – “two souls, two thoughts, two incongruous strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder”. Driven to see himself and to measure his success through the lens of white America, Troy embodies both the psychological fragmentation of the black American and the dualistic nature of black baseball- a cultural institution that describes as an ironically compressed expression of shame and pride, of degradation and achievement.

Besides invoking the falsity of the American dream in Fences, Wilson makes use of the stew metaphor in Fences to illustrate the economic inequities experienced by members of the black working class. Troy Maxson recalls the following incident witnessed in a restaurant: “I seen a white fellow come in there and order a bowl of stew. Pope picked all the meat out of the pot for him. Man ain’t had nothing but a bowl of meat! Negro come behind him and ain’t got nothing but the potatoes and carrots” [Wilson, 1986: 23]. Through the metaphor of the cultural stew, then, Wilson illustrates what Baker calls the “economics of slavery” – a governing statement of American history that perpetuates the economic structure and patriarchal myths of the antebellum South [Baker, 1984: 26-27]. Actually, in Fences the closest, that Troy comes to participating in the American dream- and hence inhabiting such a paradise- is during his life in the Negro Leagues.

Wilson associates the American dream with Troy’s younger days as a ballplayer. For Troy, however, the American dream has turned into a nightmare. Therefore, Troy Maxson is indeed considered a tragic hero and there are pieces of evidence throughout the aforementioned play that further proves it: instead of limitless opportunity, he has come to know racial discrimination and poverty. At age 53, this former Negro League hero is a garbage collector who ekes out a meager existence, working arduously to support his family and living from hand to mouth. “I do the best I can do,” he tells Rose. “I come in here every Friday. I carry a sack of potatoes and a bucket of lard. You all line up at the door with your hands out. I give you the lint from my pockets. I give you my sweat and my blood. I ain’t got no tears. I done spent them” [Wilson, 1986: 40]. Troy claims that he would not even have a roof over his head if it were not for the $3,000 that the government gave to his mentally disabled brother, Gabriel, following a serious head injury in World War II. It is known that a tragic hero is a character who used to do good deeds in the light of others but allows for his flaws or inner struggles to overcome him. Aristotle once said that a tragic hero is, “one who does not fall into misfortune though vice or depravity, but falls because of some mistake”. As a result, this downfall leads to the character’s death. In the case of Troy Maxson, it is clear that he constantly struggles to keep up with good deeds for his family, but unfortunately allowed his inner flaws to lead him to his lonely and tragic death.

In Fences Wilson converts Troy’s playing field into a battleground. Throughout the play Troy is pictured as a warrior, fighting to earn a living and to stay alive in a world that repeatedly discriminates against him. As Shannon has noted, Troy sees life as a baseball contest. He tells Rose: “You got to guard the plate closely . . . always looking for the curve-ball on the inside corner. You can’t afford to let none get past you. You can’t afford a call strike. If you going down . . . you going down swinging” [Wilson, 1986: 69]. Troy’s front yard is literally turned into a battleground during his confrontations with his younger son, Cory. When this idea of getting into college football is brought onto Troy’s table, his immediate response was to say no. The reason for this action was clear. He was protecting his son from having high hopes because he believed the color barrier was not broken. Troy’s efforts to prevent his son from playing football can be viewed as a form of “racial madness”- a term that suggests that social and political forces can impact the black psyche and that decades of oppression can induce a collective psychosis [Wilson, 1986: 6]. In Fences, this racial madness is illustrated most vividly in the character of Troy himself, who is so overwhelmed by bitterness that he destroys his son’s dream of a college education- a dream that most fathers would happily support. Instead, Troy instructs Cory to learn a trade like carpentry or auto mechanics: “That way you have something can’t nobody take away from you” [Wilson, 1986: 35].

Moreover, in the stage directions to Fences, Wilson indicates that the legendary “field of dreams” has been reduced to the “small dirt yard” in front of Troy’s home-his current playing field. Incompletely fenced, the yard contains lumber and other fence-building materials, as well as two oil drums used as garbage containers. A baseball bat – “the most visible symbol of Troy’s deferred dreams” – is propped up against a tree, from which there hangs “a ball made of rags”. As the setting reveals, Troy does not inhabit a walled garden of timeless youth. At 53, he cannot reclaim his past glory as a power hitter; nor can he participate in the American dream. His playing field has deteriorated into one of dirt, garbage, and rags. Indeed, only after Troy’s death at the end of the play, when his fence is completed and when his daughter Raynell plants a small garden in front of the house, is there even a suggestion of a walled paradise. On the whole, Fences is unique in that it appropriates a traditionally white cultural form- baseball- in order to portray an African American experience in the twentieth century.

To conclude everything, it should be noticed that in Fences such baseball’s setting invites stories of mythic confrontation. This baseball’s battleground is a kind of a sanctuary for heroes-a space reserved for the bravest and best. In Fences Troy sees himself as belonging to this masculine battleground. Indeed, throughout the play he uses the game of baseball to preserve a heroic self- image. Although his glory days in the Negro Leagues are far behind him, Troy still views himself as the strong man, the indomitable slugger of old. Wilson artfully expresses Troy Maxon’s double consciousness- his complicated experience as a black man in a white-dominated world.

Works Cited

Baker, Houston A., Jr. Blues, Ideology, and Afro-Amencan Literature: A Vernacular Theory. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1984.

Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. 1903. New York: Penguin, 1969.

Wilson, August. Fences. New York: Plume/New American Library, 1986.

Pereira, K ., August Wilson and the African American Odyssey.Urbana, Univ. of Illinois Press, 1995. Herrington J., The Playwright’s Muse, New York: Routledge, First Edition, 2002.

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Fences By August Wilson: Anyone Can Escape The Perpetuated Cycle He Or She Is Placed In

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

To put it simply, Fences is another installment of August Wilson’s American Century Cycle which takes place in the 1950s. Troy Maxson is a sanitary worker who once had a dream of being a professional baseball player, but was ultimately denied this dream due to racial discrimination. Family tension is created when Troy prevents his son Cory from meeting a college football recruiter. Cory is best described as being a dynamic character as he grows throughout the plot.

In Fences, August Wilson demonstrates the theme that it is up to one to escape the perpetuated cycle he or she is placed in as they endure the reality of the world they live in through the character of Cory Maxson. Cory ends up escaping his father Troy after constantly having his dreams destroyed by him. This occurs after the two characters get into an altercation with the outcome being Cory’s defeat: “Tell Mama I’ll be back for my things”. This was the last straw for both Cory and Troy after their numerous arguments with one another over Cory’s desire to play football. Cory saw this as an opportunity to escape Troy once and for all and ended up doing so. Later on in the film which makes a jump 8 years later to 1965, Cory comes back home in a military uniform: “Look at you, man. Look at you. Don’t he look good, Rose. Got them corporal stripes”.

Joining the military was probably another dream of Cory’s except that unlike a football career, he didn’t have any obstacles in his way and thus was able to achieve this dream. This goes to show how much Cory’s quality of life improved after escaping his father’s grasp. However, while Cory did physically escape his father, he still had to escape his shadow. During a conversation with his mother, Rose, he states that he will not attend Troy’s funeral: “Mama, I got something to tell you. I don’t know how to tell you this. . . but I’ve got to tell you. . . I’m not going to Papa’s funeral”. This tells us, the audience, that Cory is still not at peace with his father as he is still being haunted by him and believes he should continue to rebel against him. Later on, he changes his mind after he and his half-sister, Raynell, sing a song in Troy’s memory: “You go on in the house and change them shoes like Mama told you so we can go to Papa’s funeral”. Now that he let go of his anger towards Troy, Cory finally managed to escape his father completely and come to peace with him.

To sum it all up, Cory Maxson was the character August Wilson used to demonstrate the universal theme that it is up to one to escape the endless cycle he or she is in as they endure reality. Throughout Fences, Cory escaped his father after his crushed dreams and eventually escaped his father’s shadow. I recommend you to go see or read Fences if you haven’t already as it is one of August Wilson’s greatest works and rightfully earns its critical acclaim.

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