The title of the play is a sign of the primary theme of how people protect themselves from forces powerful than they are but trap their loved ones in the relationships conflicts. Different emotional fences are created by each character in the play as they try to control other people and protect themselves from their loved ones. Wilsons spends the first scene by introducing the characters, black people working class and the relationships they had. Troy, the play's protagonist, is introduced in the first chapter as a man of many layers (Elkins 9). He has children and a wife, but we are also told that he is controlling and unfaithful. He fights for the equality of the blacks and wants his children to have all that he did not have in his childhood.
Troy has a friend named Jim Bono whom he loves so much, and this is seen when he says “I love you” to him, words that he has never told his sons (Elkins 17). This is a representation of the African-American Brotherhood loves and bond that exist and is much stronger even than the intimacy created by family. Rose is Troy’s wife who has the strength to love their children and still love Troy although he is not faithful. His sons, Lyons and Cory represent his worst and best qualities. Lyons rejects the proscriptions of the society while Cory always fights with his father.
The relationship with his family and his friend is a study in contrast as he makes very rude and funny sexual advances to his wife but drinks and gossips jovially with Bono. The appearance of his son Lyon is a sign of father-son conflict as he does not like his lifestyle. However, he has to pretend to because he does not have control over Lyon, this is symbolically proven when he loans Lyons money (Deedari11). He does not want to support his son with the ten dollars to raise his jazz music, but Rose comes up with ways and sorts Lyons out. The declaration that his son had made on jazz music makes him feel that his life had no other meaning other than devotion to others.
In the second scene, Troy’s brother Gabriel is introduced, and he is disabled after losing part of his head in the Second World War. He believes that he is angel Gabriel, but this is meant to be humor to the audience apart from the sympathy for how his right mind and life were taken from him. Apart from serving for comic purposes, part of his story provides an intriguing subplot as just like his brother trot, he is concerned with his independence and freedom. Although he cannot make it alone, he moves out of his brother’s house as he wants to make it his own.
In the play, besides the clown role Gabriel plays, he also functions as a kind of Greek chorus. A chorus is a group of players that provides a background and summary information to the audience to direct them to the type of the reaction required at a particular part of play according to the ancient Greek literature (Deedari 31). He functions in similar ways as he brings back the story of soldiers who contributed and sacrificed their life to go and fight for their country. H also acts as a reminder to Troy that larger forces are working and he is not always the controller. He loves his brother and respects him but the acts that he does make it complicated. He took his disability payout and built the house that they are living in and even uses his monthly check for the family expenses. Now that Gabriel is out, he faces challenges in meeting the needs of the family and from this; the audience learns that he is not all that powerful.
In the next scene is a conversation between Troy and his son Cory about the TV which is an illustration of the father-son bond and how the realm is moving without Troy. The TV itself is a representation of how the African Americans have advanced in the current years in social, economical ways. Cory describes the television as fundamental change on how individuals relate in the world and argues that “they got lots of things on TV.” By this, he tries to show Troy of how Pittsburgh has developed beyond his knowledge. He tries to make his father understand the change and support in college football as his future depended on him. Cory wants his father to understand the world has changed and it is still changing, and so he needs to adopt the new ways.
Troy, however, does not understand, and he is not ready to deal with this idea, and so he resists the idea of the television and insists on the domestic scenes. He argues that the TV costs the same price that would be needed to repair the roof and by so doing he reveals the shame of not taking care of his responsibilities. The conversation grows into an argument, and Troy fights his son to strip his future manhood which makes him hate him more (Glasco 17). The argument reveals Troy’s disappointment in his son’s football career and Troy is so obstinate about signing the scholarship papers. He boasts of the leagues he used to play back in the days and tells his son that neither he nor his teammates can be better than they were. Troy feels that he never got an opportunity to show the talent he had to the world and due to the absence of a cause, the develops a mistrust of the power held by the black Americans by the whites. He tells Cory that he ought to get "book-realizing" so that he "can work… up in that A&P or figure out how to settle autos or manufacture houses" rather than playing soccer. This makes him ask his father why he does not like him. It is expected that Troy will answer this in a loving way, but he gets cruel and gets physical with his son demanding on the laws that say he does not like him.
The next scene has based on confrontation, the first one between Troy and his family and the final one that destroys the bond holding the family together. Troy enters the yard with Bono boasting of how he stood up to his boss, and he became the first African-American garbage driver in the Hill District. It is a good impression to the family as he will work longer and bring much more income to the family. He feels that the persistence he has on standing up to the forces if now paying off better as it had never done in his baseball career.
After celebrating the news with his family who had joined in the yard, he started another story of how his father was independent at a tender age of fourteen. He tells them proudly that although his father was a bitter and mean man, he was dedicated to his family (Jose 49). He further reveals that their relationship finished when his dad discovered him having intercourse with a young lady and pursued him away just to have her for himself. He fought his father and began his journey to the north and thus he feels that he got what was best for him, dedication to his family and loyalty. Troy, however, does not realize the irony that he has taken his father’s cruelty and bitterness. Troy is a good example of African American experience of manhood as they face a lot of contradictions and seclusions, but they still have to find a way in life. According to him, the challenges should be accepted and one to avoid involvement with materialistic things that may lead to submissiveness. Although he narrates of how he rejected his father’s actions, he goes on to embrace his son Cory and tells his coach not to let him play for his team because he is not good enough.
Six months later, Troy and his wife’s life is unraveled, and they have not spoken for months. Troy has not taken any concern to make any amendments on the issue, but instead, he spends most of his time playing checkers and cashing checks. He is lately not concerned with the other relationships that he has or the responsibilities (Jose 61). Rose accuses him of sending his brother Gabe away so that he can take and keep his money which is correct to the audience as he is so dependent on the money the government pays his brother. In the turn of events, Rose is shown as the responsible character as she is so worried about the death of their daughter Alberta. The events of the death of Alberta make Wilsons play have a very strong feminist statement here as at this particular point Rose is not only seen as a domestic partner but also as the family foundation. It is more true and clear when she takes Raynell as her own.
The deaths of Alberta make Troy realize that he was not good to his family and he starts worrying about his death. He is affected by pneumonia in several instances, and he casts himself escaping death narrowly. He realizes the fall of his family because of him abandoning his roles as the father and a normal human being (Shannon 42). His fence now becomes fence of safety, instead of keeping his family away, he is now meant to hold everyone inside. He accepts to take Raynell as it is powerful in showing what they had lost and gained in the play which shows that he is not completely heartless. He is however out of power and cannot ask for help from Rose, and his selfishness is just seen by the audience as he protest by explaining the reason why he does not apologize
The infidelity illustrated by Troy is a image of the devastation of the American dream, and the play is an evaluate of the fantasy. Wilson utilizes this play to demonstrate the group of onlookers the strengths that have characterized American dream outside the group. Troy’s dream had a good flow as he had a house, family and was slowly rising to middle class until he encounters flaws that destroy his dream. Wilson is trying to show how the flaws of humanity make possible dreams to be impossible. The dream is seen to be destroyed during the Troy and Cory battle at the yard when Cory is forcing his father to confront his inadequacies, yet he has more power. This makes Troy kick his son out of the house just as his father did in this scene and the cycle, Troy becomes the thing he hated most.
Deedari, Reza, and Mahdis Faghih Nasiri. "The Catastrophic Effects of African Americans’ Marginalisation in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and August Wilson’s Fences: A Comparative Study." Sino-US English Teaching 9.11 (2012): 1702-1710.
Elkins, Marilyn. August Wilson: a casebook. Vol. 1626. Routledge, 2013.
Glasco, Laurence A., and Christopher Rawson. August Wilson: Pittsburgh Places in His Life and Plays. Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, 2011.
Jose, Soumya, and Sony Jalarajan Raj. "Generational Dissension in August Wilson’s Fences." International Research Journal of Management Sociology and Humanity 5.2 (2014): 568-582.
Shannon, Sandra G. "Subtle Imposition: The Lloyd Richards-August Wilson Formula.”." August Wilson: A Casebook 1626 (2013): 183.
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