In the play Fences by August Wilson, Troy is shown as a man who has hurt the people who are closest to him without even realizing it. He has acted insensitive and uncaring to his wife, Rose, his brother, Gabriel, and his son, Cory. At the beginning of the story, Troy feels he has done right by them. He feels this throughout the story. He doesn’t realize how much he has hurt them.
Troy is the son of an abusive father. His father was hardly around to raise him. When he was around, he made him do chores and if he didn’t do them he would beat him. One time, after Troy tied up the mule, just as his father told him to, he went off to the creek with a girl to enjoy himself. The mule got loose, and his father found out. His father came looking for him. When he found them at the creek, he had the leather mule straps; he started to beat Troy.
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Troy was naturally scared so he ran away. He looked back at his father and realized that his father didn’t care about beating him, he just wanted the girl. Troy came back; he ripped the straps out of his father s hand. He then started to beat his father with them. His father, not afraid of Troy, beat up Troy. Troy was left there, his eyes were swelled shut. He didn’t know what to do. He couldn t go back to his father s house, so he went to another town 200 miles away. This is when Troy became a man at the age of 14.
In the town, Mobile, it was hard for him to survive. He had to steal food, and eventually money. A man shot him after he tried to steal his money. Troy had his knife and commenced to stab him after he was shot. They told him that he killed the man. They put Troy in the state penitentiary for that. He spent 15 long years there. When he came out, he met Rose.
All of his stealing habits were gone. Troy and Rose got married. At the time, Troy had a son from a previous marriage. He never spends time with this son, because he was in jail. After they were married, they wanted to have a son. Cory, their son, was born.
Troy thought that he was a good husband to Rose because he provided her with food and a house. He wasn’t a good husband because he didn’t give her love and compassion. These two things are needed in a good marriage. She centered her whole life around him and he gave her almost nothing. When she had a problem, she couldn t go to him. Troy also wasn’t faithful to Rose.
He went off and had an affair with another woman. Rose was heartbroken by this. She couldn t believe Troy could do this to her. She devoted her life to him and he goes and stabs her in the back. On top of that, Troy had a child with his mistress. The woman died giving birth. Troy asked Rose to take care of the baby. Rose did, what else could she have done? Troy was not a good husband.
Troy took care of Gabriel after the war. This made him think that he was a good brother. Troy wasn’t a good brother to Gabriel. He stole the war money that Gabriel got. He used the money that he got to build himself a house. Gabriel couldn t take care of himself, so Troy oversaw Gabriel s life. After a while, Gabriel moved out. He went to live in Mrs. Pearl s house, down the street.
Troy was mad because now that Gabriel wasn’t living in his house, he didn’t collect rent from him. Troy then sent Gabriel to an institution. Since Gabriel was there, Troy got half of the money that Gabriel got from the war. Troy couldn t care less about Gabriel; all he wanted was his money. Would a good brother do this? I don t think so.
Troy thought he was a good father because he put a roof over his son s head and fed him. Cory was scared of his father and he didn’t really love him. Troy didn’t want Cory to play football. This made Cory dislike him even more. He wanted Cory to work at the A&P. In Troy s mind, this was a nice, safe job. He only did this because, in his childhood, Troy wanted to play baseball but he couldn t because he was black. Troy was afraid that his son would be better than him.
He also thought that the white people weren’t going to let Cory play football. He thought they wouldn’t give him a chance because he was black. Troy didn’t realize that the times had changed since he was a boy. Black people now had chances too. Being a father is more than what Troy thought. You should love your son or daughter, and care for them. You should want to spend time with them and help them through life.
All of the examples above show that Troy was a bad man. He didn’t realize that there were other people in the world beside him. Everything had to revolve around him and everything had to be centered around him. He had to have his way, or it was no way. To him, if he gave you the basic necessities of life, he did a good job.
The play wants the readers to judge Troy, as a bad husband, a bad brother, a bad father, and a bad man. I feel this way, too. He cheated on Rose. Then he left her with the child he had with his mistress. He didn’t care at all about Gabriel. He stole money from him and he sent him to an institution. Troy never cared for Cory. He wouldn’t let him play football, the only thing Cory wanted to do. All of these examples show that Troy is an uncaring husband, a bad brother, a poor father, and a generally uncaring person.
When Then White Picket Fence Comes Crashing Down We all have expectations and dreams of what our lives will become; a beautiful house in a nice suburb with 2.3 children, a dog, and a white picket fence. In Adrienne Rich s, “Living In Sin”, the speaker, a woman “Living In Sin”, wakes up one day and realizes just how far away from her dreams she really is.
The poem describes how a woman imagined how her life would be, how she sees it now in reality, and how she is dealing with the difference between those two views. Rich begins the poem by showing us the dream this woman has. This is exemplary in the lines, “She had thought that the studio would keep itself, / no dust upon the furniture of love.”
She imagined her life, as so many of us do, in surreal terms. It is important to understand the mindset during the 1950 s, in which this poem was written. America was a booming country and everyone had high expectations about how glamorous and majestic their lives would become. The narrator s dreams were filled with a loving family and afternoon bridge parties.
Nowhere in her fantasies did she picture the constant “dusting” that her home and her relationship would demand. Rich uses a whitish tone to accentuate the whimsical daydreams of the narrator; daydreams that bring vivid pictures of how she once saw her future. Rich paints a vivid picture of what the woman s life should have looked like. This can be seen in the lines, “Half heresy, to wish the taps less vocal, / the pains relieved of grime.
A plate of pears, / piano with a Persian shawl, a cat / stalking the picturesque amusing mouse / had risen at his urging.” In the narrator’s picture-perfect life there would be no leaky faucets of dull repetitive chores. There would be no dirty windows to represent the view of sin that outsiders would have of her relationship. The plate of pears gives us an image of aesthetically pleasing surroundings; orderly, pure, and healthy. The piano is draped with a Persian shawl, giving us a sense of romance and tasteful wealth.
The presence of the cat gives us a feeling of warmth and homeliness. The cats hunt is not violent, but rather playful; Even the otherwise disgusting and disease-ridden mouse is seen as cute and “amusing.” Nonetheless, the narrator’s dreams are eons away from reality. At the beginning of line eight, we begin to see a distinct change in rhythm and sound, marked by the movement form her past fantasies to her present realities.
“Not that at five each separate stair would writhe / under the milkman s tramp.” There is a sense of disgust and frustration in the words, “separate stair.” The milkman serves as a symbol of the sameness of her day, of her life, as reliable as the milkman himself. The word “tramp” gives us not only a feeling of slow drudgery, but also the connotation of a woman of loose morals; a woman, “Living in Sin.”
Similar to lines earlier in the stanza, Rich continues to create a vivid picture of the narrator’s life, as can be seen in the lines, “that morning light / so coldly would delineate the scraps / of last night s cheese and three sepulchral bottles.” This time we see the reality of what her life is actually like. The morning light is not warm as the reader would expect; instead, its coldness delineates or defines the lack of emotional warmth in the home. The room is dirty contrasting her dreams of a tidy home.
The wine bottles are described as “sepulchral”, as empty and used as she feels. The mental images continue to unfold in the lines, “that on the kitchen shelf among the saucers / a pair of beetle-eyes would fix her own- / envoy from some black village in the moldings” Earlier we saw that the woman s dreams viewed the mouse as a whimsical creature. In her reality, her pest is a cockroach. He shows no fear; from the center of her own mess, he meets her gaze, as if confronting her with her own reality.
His “black village in the moldings”, symbolizes her sinful relationship hidden away in the infested apartment. Her thoughts are interrupted by an approaching figure. “Meanwhile, he, with a yawn, / sounded a dozen notes upon the keyboard, declared it out of tune, ” Again we see a change in meter and rhythm to a slow boring pace. With the word “meanwhile”, our attention is drawn from the surroundings to the man. He yawns, exhibiting not only that he just awoke, but also displaying his boredom.
We see the piano again, but this time it is not romantic, it is out of tune; just like their relationship. He then moves on, “shrugged at the mirror, / rubbed at his beard, went out for cigarettes;” He shrugs as if he accepts the way things are. He rubs his unshaven face; it is prickly and rough like himself. He puts no more effort into his appearance than he does his relationship. He simply leaves and goes for cigarettes without uttering a word.
We are left with a distinct impression of this man, he is rough and crude and takes her for granted. Although he realizes that things are “out of tune”, he is content to keep things as they are. The narrator is now responding to the realization of how far she is from her dream world in the lines, “while she, jeered by the minor demons, / pulled back the sheets and made the bed and found / a towel to dust the tabletop, / and let the coffee-pot boil over on the stove.”
She chose to “Live In Sin”, believing that it would be the answer to her dreams. She begins to make her bed, covering the place where her sins are consummated, as if hiding it helps her to deny its existence. In reality, their love was not enough to make their relationship clean and sin-free. In disgust and defiance of her lover and her life, she lets the kettle boil over. The kettle can let off steam, but she must try to content herself with the life she has chosen.
We begin to see how the woman will deal with her new realization of her life in the lines, “By evening she was back in love again, / though not so wholly but throughout the night / she woke sometimes to feel the daylight coming like a relentless milkman up the stairs./ As night comes around, she falls asleep back into her dreamland.
Still, there is a nagging knowledge that she does not have what she really wanted. It will never be quite the same again. The narrator continues to bury her happiness. Now and again she will look up from the life she is living and remember the life that she dreamed of. Each time she will become a little more disenchanted with her relationship.
She will fall a little more out of love. She will become a little more determined to find the life that she had dreamed that she would have. Nevertheless, once again the cold sun rises in the sky “like a relentless milkman up the stairs”, to signify another day of “Living In Sin.” In Adrienne Rich s poem, the ends do not necessarily justify the means. In fact, if you make choices that go against your morals, you will very likely not reach the dreams that you hoped for.
The woman believed that she could deal with living in sin because she was so much in love. Her love was not enough to overcome the guilt of her choice and the reality of what that choice would do to her life. Reality soon tore down her dreams of living in a beautiful house with a white picket fence; instead, it replaced them with a lonely cockroach-infested apartment.
The Books Fences, by August Wilson and A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest Gains, the main characters are forced to live with many hardships. Yet only a few of them can declare the value of their lives, and redeem themselves, despite these hardships. In Fences, Rose, Troy’s wife, does declare the value of her life by putting her foot down and saying that she cannot love Troy anymore.
She does so when Troy tells her that he had an affair with Alberta and now she is pregnant. Troy tries to reason his affaire by telling her “I can sit up in her house and laugh. Do you understand what I’m saying? I can laugh out loud . . . and it feels good.” Still, this does not make Rose happy about the situation. She has had to go through a lot with Troy, he is a drinker, she helped raise his son from his first marriage, and he is overall not a very happy guy.
However, Troy getting Alberta pregnant was too much for Rose to take. She tells him, “You should have stayed in my bed, . . . You should have held me tight. You should have grabbed me and held on.”(Wilson p. 70) Then later after accepting to take care of his new daughter, she tells him “you a woman less man.”(Wilson p. 79) Though she stays married to him, she does not love him anymore, she is not a “part” of him now.
When Cory comes back when troy dies, Rose explains her life with troy to him. “I took his life like mine and mixed up the pieces so that you could hardly tell which was which anymore. It was my choice. It was my life and I didn’t have to live like that But that’s what life offered me in the way of being a woman and I took it. I grabbed hold of it with both hands . . . By the time Raynell came into the house, I and your daddy had done lost touch with one another . . . but I took Raynell like she was all the babies I had wanted and never had.”
Rose explains to Cory that though her marriage to Troy was not doing so well, she still stuck with it because “that’ what life offered me.” The first step to redemption is acknowledging your faults and then if you can accept them you can move on. Rose has done that she has moved on, the declared value for her life despite her hardships.
In A Lesson Before Dying, Jefferson is one character who declares a value for their lives and redeem themselves. He does this by walking to the electric chair, by not believing that he is a hog. By realizing his faults and accepting the hardships of his life, then forgiving and forgetting them. That was the only way he could have died like a man and with a clear conscious.
Jefferson talks about some hardships of his life in his journal, he says “ever since I was nothing but a little boy, I been on my own haulin’ water to the field” (Gains p. 227). That’s what Jefferson did as he was growing, he worked in the field on the water cart, “I done pulled that cotton sack, I did cut cane, load cane swung that ax, chop ditch banks since I was six” (Gains p.224). They never gave Jefferson a chance to do better and higher things.
That’s mostly because he is black. Jefferson, Grant, Miss Emma, Tante Lou, they all have gotten the short end of the stick because they are black. Yet Jefferson was able, at the end of the book, to get above that mostly due to Grant. He, though he didn’t know it showed Jefferson how to be a man. “A hero is someone who does something for other people.
He does something that other men do not and cannot do . . . He is above other men”(Gains p. 191). Grant is trying to encourage Jefferson to come out on top, to forgive and forget in away. “I want you to show them that you are as much a man–more a man than they can ever be,”.
When Paul comes to give Grant Jefferson a journal he tells him about what he says at the execution, “But tell them [Miss Emma and Tante Lou] he was the bravest man in that room today. I’m a witness”. In the end, Jefferson did become “more a man than they can ever be.”
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”.
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 coming from? I’m supposed 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, “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 chosen 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 were 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 Troy’s 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 his 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 Troy’s new position at work claiming, “Since you got your new promotion at work I can’t keep up with you. Used to see you every day 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 these relationships by means of metaphorical fences. A structure that is meant to ideally keep people secure becomes the complete opposite of their deteriorating family. He loses his wife 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.
In Fences, August Wilson introduces an African American family whose life is based around a fence. In the dirt yard of the Maxson’s house, many relationships come to blossom and wither here. The main character, Troy Maxson, prevents anyone from intruding into his life by surrounding himself around a literal and metaphorical fence that affects his relationships with his wife, son, and mortality.
Throughout the play, readers see an incomplete fence which symbolizes Rose (Troy’s wife) and Troy’s drifting relationship. Rose wants Troy and Cory to build a fence to keep her loved ones protected. This is evident when Rose is seen singing the church hymn, “Jesus, be a fence all around me every day.
Troy is entirely stubborn in his ways that he cannot see that times have changed. Since Troy was fenced out from playing professional baseball, he fences Cory out of playing college football. Troy and Cory’s relationship resembles the fence by its purpose and physical attribution. When it comes to sports, they are separated by different generations, but they come together because of their love of sports.
Like a fence that is meant to separate outsiders, but connected to bring together the fence. Troy and Cory’s relationship continues to get pushed apart throughout the play. In Act 2, Scene 4 Troy and Cory get into a fight which leads Troy to state to Cory that his things will “be on the other side of that fence.” When Troy kicks Cory out onto the streets, the fence becomes an actual division between both of them.
The two spend a lot of time building the fence, only for it to create a literal and emotional barrier. The fence becomes a representation of the barrier that Troy tries to create between him and mortality. Troy has a fixation on Death. He talks about how Death is an easy “fastball on the outside corner” (I. i). Troy always speaks about how he could easily knock a baseball out of the park.
Children grow up naturally emulating the adults around them, for most, it is their mother and father, this is natural and typically a positive thing. There are times, however, when the people that children emulate are not the best examples society has to offer. In the play Fences, Cory looks up to his dad when it comes to sports.
However, by the end of the play, the reader starts to notice that Troy is not the man to look up to. The plot in Fences by August Wilson is centered around an African American family that looks at the world a little differently by that I mean when Troy was young people believed blacks shouldn’t be able to do the things whites can.
People were rude and outspoken about how they felt when it came to sharing public things with blacks. Now Troy’s sons are living in a world that has evolved and is not as racist, the boys can go out and achieve their dreams, even if they are African American it may be difficult but is still achievable. Because of the change in the way of life, there has been a conflict between the two boys and their father.
Troy may realize that things are different now, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is hard for him to let go of the past. Because Troy was unable to play baseball based on his race, he believes Cory shouldn’t be able to go on and play college football. This raises a big question, is Troy being unfair or is he trying to look out for his son?
August Wilson was born in Pittsburgh’s Hill district in 1945 to a white father and a black mother which was certainly not a promising start in his life. His racial identity caused him quite a number of misfortunes inherent within the trans-racial culture of slavery and discrimination.
In a historical sense, the play eliminates the inherent inequality of power between black communities and the white supremacies and ways in which racism has become internalized by invading the social fabric of our communities. In the play, “Fences” by August Wilson, the character of Troy Maxson portrays a man that has a lot of hard times in his past, especially when it came to his father. Because of it, it has turned him into a man incapable of showing love to his own children and in the end a tragic figure.
The book’s title “Fences”, offers a central metaphor for the play in exploring the lives and relationships of black families back in the 1950s as slaves to the white men. Troy, a major character in the book, is fiercely proud of his ability to provide for his family, a responsibility he effortlessly tries to instill into his son’s life who is otherwise determined to find a place in the college league.
Racism and discrimination become the center stone of our analysis by providing the metaphoric activity of the play which however illustrates the distinct relationships that existed between the black and white cultures in the 1950s.
For nearly two decades, Troy worked as a garbage man alongside Bono. Together they hauled junk on the alleys and neighborhoods and later applied for a promotion which was not an easy task due to the white supremacy but got it anyway as a garbage truck driver, a career that symbolically separated him from the American community (Wade 1).
To answer the question of the fractured relationship between Troy and his son, Troy’s inability to secure a chance in Negro Baseball Team due to racism crippled his future of ever having money or fame associated with it. Since he now works as a garbage man, he sees no hope for his son’s promised college scholarship in a league he considered dominated by the white culture. He asks Cory to instead consider getting a job or help out in the household chores than bartering up in the league.
Troy and Bono narrate the story of their childhood in the South and their difficult relationships with their fathers and how Negro League scaled down his lifetime dream to fit a rich man’s society into a run-down yard, an experience he never wishes his son Cory to encounter.
He’s been seriously scarred by the 1950s racism that loomed black communities. Brutality can also be portrayed when Troy’s father severely beat him when he found him with a girl and even raped the girl, reflecting conflict and abuse within the play (Fisherman 15).
Due to slavery, Troy and his son, Cory, interpret life differently because of their histories. For instance, Troy discourages his son from participating in the college’s football team arguing that his past racism experience discriminated him against the league for being of a minority culture.
And Cory should not experience the same hardship, disappointment, and rejection he encountered. Corry, however, dismisses his claim by arguing that life has changed since he played. He, therefore, goes ahead and provides examples of successful African American athletes Wilson mentions as “The Braves got Hank Aaron and Wes Covington. Hank Aaron hit two home runs today. That makes forty-three” (Act One scene three).
And Cory responds by saying that “Hank Aaron ain’t nobody” (Act One, scene three). It’s evident that if Troy would accept this change in the world would mean accepting his own misfortune. Their different perceptions of history provide a conflict that drifts away from the father and son relationship.
Troy looks back at his past experience in the Negro League baseball with repulsive resentment that locked him out of the major league’s money and fame; an experience Zirin considers “turned his scars into wipes”.
Due to is past experiences that never achieved him higher status in the social society, he insists on Troy returning to work and earn his way up in academic career because he sees employment to be fair and honest rather than risking his chance in the college league that is dominated by the powerful majority group. He is sure, sooner or later, that they will want him out of the league. And it was this discrimination that made him defiance.
From a historical perspective, Cory sees life the way it is; a changing world that is gradually accepting a place for talented black players like him, but Troy’s irrational hypocrisy illustrates a conflicting interpretation of history.
His hardened perception of the past makes him refuse to see the college recruiter coming to seek his permission for Cory to join the college football. He considers his selfish decision as protection, a strategy that clearly holds back a promising future for the son he believes to be protecting (Wilson Act One scene five).
Dr. Shannon argues that Wilson’s book “Fences” has contributed greatly to the historical legacy of African American tradition in relation to slavery and racism. She continues that the play provides themes that cut across the contemporary social issues inherent within the slavery period.
She adds that the booklets the readers talk openly about unemployment, discrimination, pain, resignation, and dislocation and exposes the long-held stereotypical myths and views white people have against blacks. She also uses the book to lecture in seminars on the social relevance of the themes of the book in today’s society.
Fences by August Wilson re-writes the history of African Americans in the United States that was otherwise ignored by a vast majority of historical writers. By confronting the horrors of slavery, the play uncoils the stories that were forgotten and misrepresented by writers who only read about them but did not have the experience Wilson had. The play brings the past to the present and it is without a doubt the most remarkable healing therapy for African Americans would need to burry the past and move forward.
Which brings us to the question of why Troy Maxon’s past made him so harsh towards his son? To answer this question, we consider his painful past experiences he never wishes to pass on to his son, however, it should be noted that his experience only relates to history and should not come in the way of his next generation’s success. By refusing Cory to join the college football league only kills his son’s good future he considers protecting either than bettering it.
Example #8 – Baseball as a Symbol of America in “fences”
Along with the Fourth of July and apple pie, baseball is a celebrated symbol of America. Since its invention over 150 years ago, the game has served as a powerful metaphor for the American dream, and the hopes and democratic ideals that accompany this idea. However, in 1957, when August Wilson’s Fences is set, baseball was still in the early phases of desegregation, a process that had begun ten years before.
This racial revolution left Wilson’s protagonist, 53-year-old former Negro league star Troy Maxson, resentful of the opportunities he was denied in his own baseball career. Troy’s disappointment not only affects his life but also his family’s life, in particular, his 18-year-old son, Cory. Based on his outdated assumption that discrimination still exists in sports despite the cultural changes, Troy attempts to protect Cory by denying him a football scholarship and a chance at the American dream.
Troy explains his actions entirely through baseball terminology. Troy also relies on baseball imagery to describe an extramarital affair and his relationship with death itself. Using these vivid baseball images and loaded rhetoric, Troy Maxson defies the constraints of racism and the mundaneness of his own life.
Consumed with bitterness, Troy dwells on the memories of his former playing days while also attempting to distinguish himself as unique. Having been denied his wish to play baseball professionally, Troy focuses on the main deterrent to his former dreams.
In Troy’s mind, there is the only reason he did not succeed at baseball, and that is his race. After Rose suggests that Troy was simply too old once the baseball color barrier was broken, he says, “What do you mean too old? Don’t come telling me I was too old. I just wasn’t the right color. Hell, I’m fifty-three years old and can do better than Selkirk’s .269 right now!” (39). Troy’s clear awareness of the power of race in determining opportunity is the main source of his discontent. Troy feels the need to single race out, as shown by his use of “just,” to justify his angst.
His comparison to the New York Yankees outfielder George Selkirk, an average white player, also demonstrates his desire to make others understand that he was indeed talented enough to be in the major leagues. He goes further in comparing himself favorably to Selkirk, saying, “Man batting .269, understand? .269. What kind of sense that make? I was hitting .432 with thirty-seven home runs!” (9). Troy even goes so far as to compare himself to other black baseball players.
He notes, “Jackie Robinson wasn’t nobody…Hank Aaron ain’t nobody.” (34) Bringing these legendary African- American players to his own level, Troy suggests that it is truly impossible for any black athlete to be successful in professional, white-controlled sports. These claims, however, seem futile and unjustified coming from the embittered Troy. His repeated use of the word “nobody” also serves to illustrate one of the reasons Troy could never have succeeded in professional baseball, a reason he himself does not recognize.
Wilson depicts Troy as headstrong and confrontational with a manner far less conciliatory than would have been necessary to manage the hardships of being black in the Major Leagues in the 1940s and 1950s. Troy’s slandering of other players and the racist culture of baseball thus makes him come across as defiant rather than victimized. His prejudice and bitterness affect his son Cory’s baseball career, too.
Believing that African-Americans will never be given a fair chance in sports, Troy denies Cory the chance to play college football. The clash between Troy and Cory persists throughout the play. It begins when Cory receives the news that he has been awarded a scholarship to the University of North Carolina. Troy’s immediate reaction to this news is to assume that Cory won’t actually even get the chance to succeed.
Troy says, “The white man ain’t gonna let you get nowhere with that football noway.” (35) This echoes Troy’s own complaints about his baseball career, but his concern for Cory’s future is even more acute. Troy groups all sports organizations, or any people with power as the “white man.” This generalization shows how disenchanted and prejudiced Troy has become after experiencing so much disappointment in his baseball career.
Thus, when his own son receives a chance far superior to any Troy received, he instantly rejects it based on his longstanding fear of exclusion and rejection by those in power. When Rose tries to convince Troy to let Cory play, she explains that Cory is simply trying to be like his father. She says, “Why don’t you let the boy go ahead and play football, Troy? Ain’t no harm in that. He’s just trying to be like you with the sports” (39). The indignant language Troy uses to respond suggests that Rose has hit on a very sensitive topic. For Cory to be exactly like him is precisely what Troy wishes to prevent.
Troy says to Rose, “I don’t want him to be like me! I want him to move as far away from my life as he can get… I decided seventeen years ago that boy wasn’t getting involved in no sports. Not after what they did to me in the sports” (39). Troy’s way of protecting and caring for his son is confusing to Rose and infuriating to Cory. In Troy’s mind, he is protecting his son from falling victim to his same disappointments. The sports world and baseball have come to represent such evils to Troy that he lets his past shape Cory‘s future, determined not to allow racism to dictate Cory’s life.
Wilson leaves it ambiguous why Troy waited until such a late point in Cory’s life to stop him from playing sports. This is perhaps because Troy realizes that because Cory plays a different sport in a different time, he might actually have a better chance at success than his father. This clash between Cory and Troy and eventually renders Cory unable to live in the same house as his father.
As Troy moves further and further away from his dream of playing baseball, he starts to meld the playing field with his home life. Troy starts using baseball imagery to direct his family and defy white culture. Wilson describes the play’s only setting as “a small dirt yard, partially fenced…A baseball bat leans against a tree.” This description suggests that Troy still treats his surroundings like a baseball game.
The dirt of the yard provides a field on which to go to battle with whomever he needs, just like he did while playing the real game. Baseball imagery is central to the way Troy makes sense of his world. He describes his attitude towards life to Rose, saying, “You born with two strikes on you before you come to the plate. You got to guard it closely…always looking for the curve-ball on the inside corner” (69). This powerful image shows a defiant Troy as a perpetual fighter in the batter’s box of life, striving to earn a decent living in a world that will always discriminate against him.
Troy attempts to convey this embattled and truculent mentality to Cory as well, but after learning that Troy has crushed his football prospects, Cory becomes so incensed that he begins to make angry accusations against his father. He says, “Just cause you didn’t have a chance! You just scared I’m gonna be better than you, that’s all” (58). Full of idealism about the promise of the American dream, Cory’s reaction reflects the generational conflict between father and son.
In response to Cory’s accusation, Troy responds with the same baseball-as-battlefield imagery. He says, “I’m gonna tell you what your mistake was. See…you swung at the ball and didn’t hit it. That’s strike one. See you in the batter’ box now. You swung and you missed. That’s strike one. Don’t you strike out!” (58) To Troy, baseball is inextricably linked with pain and disappointment. He equates Cory’s failure, with the physical action of missing a pitch, a “strike.” This representation of disappointment as a physical action shows the effect that disillusionment and racism have had on Troy’s life, as well as how Troy perpetuates this in his parenting decisions.
As Cory nears a “strikeout,” or rather, being kicked out of the household, Troy increasingly merges his baseball imagery with foreboding warnings. Eventually, Cory has a physical fight with Troy and leaves the house, serving as the final strike in Cory’s potential sports career. This conflict takes a powerful toll on Troy as well.
Shortly before the play’s conclusion, Troy directs his baseball rhetoric towards death and his marital conflict to underscore his proud defiance. After exposing his affair to Rose, Troy attempts to justify his actions again using his traditional baseball terminology. He says, “I stood on first base for eighteen years and I thought…well, goddamn it…go on for it!” (70) This explanation provides a window into Troy’s character by showing how focused his life had been on being responsible.
He assures himself that he was entitled to seek and achieve more because he had been living the same “decent,” “useful” life for “eighteen years.” It is telling that he uses the “first base” imagery to explain his period of stasis because his baseball career was also stuck. Through this display of pride, the reader can see how important it is for Troy to differentiate himself and to defy his static life. This theme of defiance continues as the play progresses and Troy begins addressing death itself. By linking baseball and death, he convinces himself that he is unconquerable and close to immortal.
Troy says about death, “Death ain’t nothing. I did see him. Done wrassled with him. You can’t tell me nothing about him. Death ain’t nothing but a fastball on the outside corner” (10). Troy equates death with a pitch that could he could hit to score a home-run. This address parallels his disparaging comments about Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson, in Act I, in that they both demonstrate that Troy wishes to show that he is stronger than his opponents. For Troy, death itself might represent the perpetual oppression of the white man, a force he wishes he could take on and conquer.
Eventually, Troy realizes that his “at bat” with death has finally rendered him the loser. In his last speech, Troy addresses death once again, “(Troy assumes a batting posture and begins to taunt Death, the fastball in the outside corner). Come on! It’s between you and me now! Come on! Anytime you want! Come on! I will be ready for you…but it ain’t gonna be easy”. Even until his final moments, Troy feels compelled to face death with the same vigor and fearlessness with which he would have faced the legendary black pitcher, Satchel Paige.
By utilizing baseball rhetoric at this final moment, Wilson leaves the reader thinking about the nature of the sport, specifically the fact that there can only be one victor. Troy’s final speech also leaves the reader with a strong image of the protagonist as a warrior who remained resolute and defiant until his final hour. In the final scene of the play, as the entire Maxson family gathers to commemorate Troy, his brother Gabriel, in the figurative form of the Archangel Gabriel, says, “You ready, Troy. I’m gonna tell St.
Peter to open the gates. You get ready now” (100). As Gabriel sends Troy off through the Gates of Heaven, it becomes clear through the use of “You get ready now,” that he recognizes and respects Troy’s defiant character, as reflected by his language. No matter how many wrongs Troy committed in his life, he will ultimately be remembered for his strength in the face of adversity and oppression. With the whole family at the house, Troy’s home and real playing fields are consecrated, and the great man who never stopped swinging is forgiven and celebrated.
August Wilson’s Fences is unique because it takes a traditionally white activity, baseball, and uses it to portray the African-American experience. Through Troy, Wilson craftily expresses a black man’s complex awareness of being an outsider in a white society. At the same time, this approach serves to contradict the standard image of the wholesome American dream.
Wilson suggests that America’s national pastime has been tarnished with racism and thus the idealistic promise of America is an illusion as well. The playwright instead indicates, that the image of baseball, and the nation as a whole, must accept the increasing role of the Troy Maxson’s of the world, the proud, defiant, African- American fighters who are just as deserving of the American Dream.
Example #9 – interesting ideas
I need help with the essay the play of august Wilson fences…?
You already know from reading the play how Troy physically sets out to build a fence around the house, but emotionally builds fences between himself and his son, and between himself and his wife. One example of this is: he’s aware of his violent tendencies that come from the hand of his father. Despite this self-awareness, he doesn’t guard sufficiently against it and ends up chasing away his son Cory, as Troy’s own father had chased him off.
The quote relating to this self-awareness is in Act 1, scene 4. Troy accounts for the story of his father beating him and then him leaving. It ends with: “. . . The only thing I knew was the time had come for me to leave my dad’s house. And right there the world suddenly got big. And it was a long time before I could cut it down to where I could handle it.
Part of that cutting down was when I got to the place where I could feel him kicking in my blood and knew that the only thing that separated us was the matter of a few years.” So as the play continues, you see working out of that “kicking in my blood” in that Troy allows Cory three strikes or confrontations with him and the third, the most violent ends with Cory painfully reminding Troy of his shortcomings of his father. Those remain the final words shared between them, as Troy dies and Cory only returns home at his funeral.
Rose has the opportunity to forgive Troy and to understand him, but since he only chooses to analogize in terms of baseball, she finds his explanation lacking and insincere. Baseball is a game and she thinks he’s not taking the situation seriously when he explains it through a medium he understands best. She is (understandably) stuck in her own grief. She remains stuck there and when she has the opportunity to forgive Troy when Alberta dies and he asks Rose for help in raising his baby daughter, she agrees by saying, ” OKay Troy…you’re right.
I’ll take care of your baby for you…cause… as you say…she’s innocent…and you can’t visit the sins of the father upon the child. A motherless child has got a hard time. From right now..this child got a mother. But you a womanless man.” (Act 2, scene 4) And Troy remains a womanless man, it appears. The last interaction we see in the play between the couple is with Rose leaving to go off to a church function, and he left to drink and warm his dinner.
She resents his inquiry into when she will back and tells him it doesn’t matter what time she comes back. Troy may have initially begun building the fence between him and Rose, but she finishes it off. They are each responsible for the tragedy of the fence built between them. Likewise Troy is responsible for the gulf between him and Cory.
I’ve read the play, but it’s been a while. I know it deals a lot with what it means to be a man, but if you want to talk about the fence, it was also a central theme as I recall. You could compare/contrast that symbolism with Robert Frost’s poem “Fences”.
It is about how fences make good neighbors because they bring us together but also maintain boundaries. It also investigates the fact that such boundaries are not common in nature, and are a man-made ideal. Just google it and you will find it. I think that the fence was something that definitely brought the dad and his son together because they built it together… I think fences in both situations are an attempt at obtaining control or power over a situation that is truly out of a person’s hands.
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