Fences is a play by August Wilson that was first performed in 1985. The play tells the story of an African American family living in the Pittsburgh ghetto in the 1950s. Fences explores the themes of race, family, and responsibility.
The play centers on Troy Maxson, a former baseball player who now works as a garbage collector. Troy is a hard-working man, but he is also deeply resentful of the fact that he was never able to make it as a professional baseball player. This resentment leads him to take out his frustrations on his wife, Rose, and his son, Cory.
Troy is also struggling to come to terms with his own mortality. He is concerned about leaving his family behind when he dies. Fences is a powerful drama that explores the complex relationships between fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and blacks and whites in America.
In August Wilson’s Fences, the audience is given a thorough examination of the Maxson family and their efforts to live as an African American family in the 1950s. Troy Maxson, the father and story protagonist, endeavors to guide his family toward survival in a society where their skin color is their greatest barrier.
Fences explores not only the racial barriers of the time, but also the generational differences within the African American community. Wilson’s Fences is a thought provoking story that will leave readers with a new perspective on race relations in America.
The play Fences is set in the late 1950’s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Troy Maxson is a 53 year old African American man who works as a garbage collector. Troy is married to Rose and they have two sons together, Lyons and Cory. Lyons is an adult who lives outside of the home and Cory is a high school student. Troy also has a son from a previous relationship, named Gabriel. Gabriel was injured during World War II and now lives with his aunt because he is not able to take care of himself.
Troy is a hardworking man who has been dealt a difficult hand in life. He was born too late to be a slave and too early to witness the fruits of the civil rights movement. Troy feels that he has been denied opportunities because of the color of his skin and he is resentful towards white people because of it. Troy’s bitterness sometimes leads him to make poor decisions, such as having an affair with another woman. Despite his flaws, Troy is essentially a good man who loves his family and just wants what is best for them.
Rose is Troy’s wife and she is the one who keeps the family together. Rose is a loyal and supportive wife, even though Troy is not always faithful to her. Rose is a strong woman who stands up to Troy when she disagrees with him. She is levelheaded and reasonable, which helps to offset some of Troy’s more impulsive behavior.
Lyons is Troy and Rose’s adult son. Lyons is a talented musician who makes his living playing the piano in bars. He does not have a close relationship with his father because Troy does not approve of Lyons’ chosen profession. Lyons resents his father for this and the two men are often at odds with each other.
Cory is Troy and Rose’s teenage son. Cory is a star athlete and has been offered a football scholarship to college.
The previous summary, while accurate, is a rather superficial glance at Fences. Wilson utilized this bias to drive home the true theme of the film. Suzan Lori-Parks, a fellow playwright and drama critic, asks “Does Black life include other issues than racial concerns?” (Lori-Parks), and Fences’ family-focused subject satisfies it flawlessly.
Fences explores the African-American experience in the 1950’s and is set in a predominantly black neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The main character, Troy Maxson, is a 53 year old former Negro League baseball player who now works for the sanitation department. Troy is married to Rose, his devoted wife of 18 years who works as a housekeeper.
They have two sons together, Lyons, Troy’s biological son from a previous marriage, and Cory, whom Rose had given birth to during their marriage. Fences also focuses on Bono, Troy’s best friend and coworker, and Gabriel, Troy’s brother who was injured during World War II and now lives with Troy and Rose.
One central conflict in Fences is between father and son. Troy often denies his son’s requests, such as when Lyons asks for money to buy a new trumpet or when Cory asks to play football. Troy feels that he knows what is best for his sons and doesn’t want them to experience the same hardships that he did. This conflict comes to a head near the end of the play when Cory tells Troy that he will never amount to anything just like his father didn’t. Troy then proceeds to beat Cory with a belt, leaving him with welts all over his back.
While Fences primarily focuses on the African-American experience, it also deals with universal themes such as love, family, betrayal, and loss. August Wilson was able to expertly weave these themes into the fabric of the play, resulting in a moving and powerful work of art.
Some, even Troy Maxson himself, would say that most of the conflict in Fences took place because to racism at the time. When Cory mentioned his future prospects in sports, “The white man isn’t going to let you succeed with that football now way” (Wilson). This establishes Troy’s contempt for racial constraints during the period and its imposed limits.
Troy’s racism is not only due to the external pressure of societal norms, but also because of his own internalized hatred. When Bono asks Troy “What you mean nigger?” in response to being called one, Troy defines the word. He states that a nigger is “An uneducated black man” which show us that he has bought into white society’s definition of the African American race.
Troy’s Fences also symbolize the ways in which he has been restricted by society. The fact that he was never able to achieve his dream of being a professional baseball player weighs heavily on him throughout the play. It leads him to build Fences around his property, and figuratively speaking, around his family. These Fences not only protect him from the outside world, but they also serve to keep his family close to him and under his control.
While some would argue that Troy’s Fences are a product of racism, it is clear that they are also a result of his own internal struggles. Troy is a complex character who is fighting against both external and internal forces throughout the play. Fences is a powerful story about the ways in which we all struggle to break free from the limitations that are placed on us.