Analysis of August Wilson’s Play “Fences”

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The “Fences” is a play written by August Wilson, which was centered on the life of Troy Maxson and his family in 1950s. Troy Maxson is an African American whose life was filled with tragic events. He is full of bitterness and hatred towards the world because of what life put him through. Troy’s mom left them when he was only eight years old, so he grew up with abusive and neglecting father. He left house when he was fourteen years old, and even served fifteen years in jail for killing a man during a robbery. His dream of becoming a Major League Baseball player was ripped away from him because of his race. His life was full of obstacles which made deep impact on him, which is why Troy deserves sympathy. Troy is a victim of racism, as well as a victim of being a son of neglecting and abusive father, which left him being unable to effectively display his emotions.

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During early 1900s racism was a big issue and it wasn’t sugarcoated. Discrimination was putting a lot of obstacles in front of African Americans, which made them to look at the world with hatred, as it limited many of their opportunities in their life. Troy’s dream of becoming a baseball player was ripped away from him because of his skin color. Back in Troy’s time, 1950s, black players didn’t have a lot of opportunity to play in Major League. In article “Baseball as History and Myth in August Wilson’s Fences”, Susan Koprince talks about racism and discrimination in baseball back then, when she says, “The black ballplayers also had to contend with the racism in the Untied States and were unable to stay at hotels that catered to whites or to eat in whites-only restaurants. George Giles, a first baseman for the St. Louis Stars, recalled.

”The racism we faced while I was in Negro Leagues was one of the things that eventually pushed me out of baseball… I was treated like a second-class citizen in my own country by people who knew they hated me before I could even say ‘Hello’”. Racism was blooming, as black people were completely separated from white people. They weren’t allowed to use same public bathrooms as white people, they weren’t allowed to go to the same restaurants and churches as well. Treatment like that files a person with a lot of resentment, anger, bitterness towards the world. It scars you for the rest of your life, and in order to survive you need to harden, lose your emotions. Furthermore, black ballplayers weren’t allowed to play in Major League because of their race. Koprince, also, quotes Giles observation when he says.

“People say to me ‘George, you were born too soon to be one of the ones to make it to the big leagues’… I was born in in the United States of America. I’m American, not a foreigner. For years, foreigners came here and had more opportunity than I had”. When your own country doesn’t give you an opportunity, it is heartbreaking, inhuman. Troy has been through that all, and it left him without faith and hope that things will ever change. Even though everybody were telling him that things are changing, he didn’t believe it, because he experienced cruelness of the world on his own skin. For the same reason Troy didn’t want his son Corry to pursue football career, as he says, “I told that boy about that football stuff. The white man ain’t gonna let him get nowhere with that football. I told him when he first come to me with it. Now you come to telling me he done went and got more tied up in it”.

As Troy doesn’t believe that world is changing, he is trying to protect his son. He doesn’t want his son to go through the same experience and get heartbroken like he did. He doesn’t want white people to rip his dream away from him and make him bitter and full of hate, like it happened to Troy. Koprince mentions it in her article as she says, “Troy’s effort to prevent his son from playing football can be viewed as a form of what Harry J. Elam, Jr., calls “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. In “Fences” this racial madness is illustrated most vividly in the character of Troy’s mentally handicapped brother, Gabriel, but it is also revealed in 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”. This shows how much racism impacted Troy, the struggle it created in his youth, how much influence it had on decisions he made, later on, in his life. Now he is trying to stop his son from going through the same, no matter what it takes. Racism made a victim out of him, a bitter man who lives in shadow of what could and what should, have been.

Mother strives to nurture and teach a child, mother’s love is priceless and very important in child’s development. Role of the father can have a large impact on a child and help shape a child into the person they become. Troy’s mom left them when he was eight years old, he didn’t grow up with mother’s love and affection. Instead, he was raised by his abusive and neglecting father. Troy describes his father, “Sometimes I wish I hadn’t known my daddy. He ain’t cared nothing about no kids. A kid to him wasn’t nothing. All he wanted was for you to learn how to walk so he could start you to working. When it come time for eating… he ate first. If there was anything left over, that’s what you got. Man would sit down and eat two chickens and give you the wing”. From this description we get an image of mean and selfish father, who never showed love to his children, who saw his children just as a responsibility. Every son needs a father to who he can look up to, a role model. Troy didn’t have a proper father figure in his life, his harshness and coldness weren’t intentional because he didn’t know better. We see that when Cory asks Troy why he doesn’t like him. Troy’s response was, “It’s my job. It’s my responsibility! You understand that?

A man got to take care for his family. You live in my house… sleep you behind on my bedclothes.. fill you belly up with my food… cause you my son. You my flesh and blood. Not ‘cause I like you! Cause it’s my duty to take care of you. I owe a responsibility to you!”. Sense of responsibility, from his father, was molded in his character. He goes to work every day to provide for his family, but he can’t express the love to them that they crave, for him that is the only way to show his love. However, deep beneath his tough exterior is a man who truly cares. When in the article “Recuing the Tragic Bully in August Wilson’s Fences”, written by Myles Weber, James Earl Jones was asked about the cruelest aspect of Troy’s personality he said, “Those are just abrasions and scars from being a common man”, the actor claimed. He assured Janice Arkatov of the Los Angeles Times, “Troy is more than good.  He’s standing up on his hind legs for Heaven”- exactly where he arrives by play’s end”. Troy was a good man, indeed. All his decisions were influenced by past. He never wanted, intentionally, to harm his family. The world taught him to be the man he was. World can be a cruel place sometimes, for some people. Some people experience a lot of injustice in their life, which changes who they are. Sometimes some people don’t know how to properly express their love, but just because someone doesn’t say I Love You, doesn’t mean that feeling doesn’t exist. Actions can be louder than words.

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Analysis of August Wilson's play "Fences". (2022, Jul 03). Retrieved August 16, 2022 , from

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