Fences, authored by August Wilson in 1985, is about complicated family relationships and the handling of African Americans over the twentieth century. Throughout his career, the author composed a series of plays, with everyone concerning a distinct decade, to discuss the African American events in the mid-1900s; the drama is perhaps the most acknowledged. The play explores the issue of competing impulses—the fundamental component of balancing an act of love against an act of responsibility. In “Fences,” Wilson concentrates on the life of a trash worker Maxson and his strained association with his boys and wife to establish the theme of racial discrimination and masculine significance by employing symbolism, allegory and metaphor.
The drama explores race as a prominent issue and the central theme. The play takes place in the 1950s, and enslavement had been outlawed several years before the tremendous racial tension and prejudice in America since the Civil Rights movement had not yet begun. Wilson made all of the characters in the play African American emphasize racial aspects clearer. The story’s main character, Troy Maxson is a trash collector who works in a discriminatory environment. For instance, early in the story, Troy discusses a problematic event with his buddy Bono (39). Troy adds that he questioned one of the other trash workers, a white man, “Why you got white men driving and colored men doing the lifting?…You think only whitens got sense enough to drive a truck?… Hell, anybody, can drive a truck,” (Wilson 39). The system of paying white men to drive automobiles while African Americans, such as Troy, perform all the filthy, heavy labor provides white males with an advantage.
The framework of Fences is based on a few elaborate metaphors, including garden, roses, death, fences, etc. Each of these metaphors contributes significantly to the play’s ability to disclose meanings inside meanings. Since Troy builds his history and conception of the universe around the game of baseball, it serves as a crucial metaphor in the play. Maxson was a fantastic athlete who excelled in baseball when he was young. He was talented and capable of playing professionally but could not do so due to the segregation of athletics. African Americans were prohibited from engaging in baseball. Rose notifies him on the current day of the play that their son, Cory, has been hired to engage in football (Wilson 41). He instantly dismisses the notion, responding, “I told that youngster white dudes ain’t going to allow him to get here with that football” (Wilson 41). Troy is contrasting to any of his boys following a career in athletics since he was turned down when he tried. But the situations have changed since childhood, and sports teams are incorporating at this time. Wilson uses this exchange of discourse to demonstrate Troy’s resentment of white people as a result of how he was treated. This issue parallels the generational divide between those who have been discriminated against and those who see change and growth.
Troy and Cory’s relationship is central to one of the play’s significant problems. Fences shed light on specific issues surrounding the concept of masculinity, such as what constitutes a decent man and what it means to be a man. This theme’s key component—the role of the male in the home—is evident throughout the play. For instance, Rose asks Troy and Bono what they are discussing when she enters the outdoor area during their conversation. Troy responds, “What are you concerned about with what we’re getting into? Men are talking to women… Go inside the home so we can complete our conversation there” (Wilson 40). Troy appears to be calling her nosey in jest, but his remark has some seriousness. Before instructing Rose to enter the home again, he addresses her as a “lady.” He is demonstrating his masculinity by expressing his power as the leader of the home by ordering her what to do.
Along with Troy’s contacts with his wife, Wilson further uses Troy’s relationships with his kid to explore the play’s themes of gender and masculinity. Troy considers responsibility the pinnacle of what it means to be a man. He explains to Cory that Troy’s labor is why he has food to eat daily, clothing to wear, and a roof over his head. Troy continues by saying that he does not provide such items to Cory since he “likes him,” but rather because “it’s my job. I’m in charge of it. A man must provide for his family. Wilson (p. 48). Troy’s turbulent and strained connection with his father is what informs his parenting style. The play demonstrates that Troy makes some of the same errors with Cory as his father. Wilson addresses the relevance of history repeating itself throughout the familial line by establishing this pattern in the narrative. Troy’s upbringing significantly influenced the kind of dad he became, demonstrating the power of upbringing. Wilson suggests that Troy had incorrect views about manhood and masculinity due to his upbringing. The plural word “fence” in the title represents the play’s numerous separate divisions. Troy is constructing a fence to surround the house all through the play. August Wilson uses this fence to symbolize a few things in the play. To “hold on” to and safeguard her family, Rose wished for the barrier to be constructed (Wilson 54). The Maxson family sees the barrier in this regard as a sort of protection.
Symbolism is present in the title “Fences”, which may imply various things. Fences, the play’s title, provides a line to use as a benchmark for success with all its symbolic implications. Every character in the play has some reservations about fences, making them a possible allegory in the play.
The fence stands in for both America’s racial division and the widening gap between Troy and his family. The barrier here is a metaphor for Troy’s skin and ethnicity since it has prevented him from accomplishing many things he has wanted to do. Troy and his sons are separated from one another in the same manner that a fence creates a division between two objects (Menson-Furr, 35). Wilson emphasizes the divisions in all plot facets by using several metaphorical fences. African Americans in the novel are maltreated, much as they were for generations before the Civil Rights Movement. Troy and Cory’s absence of a father figure who serves as an example shows how much one’s upbringing affects their future. Through his play collection “The Pittsburgh Cycle,” Wilson effectively illustrates how African Americans are treated, and the complex father-son connection of these characters speaks of the experience of the African American man.
In conclusion, the play uses these three literary devices to build on the theme of race. The fence symbolically demonstrates the division between African Americans and whites. Other literary devices like metaphor and allegory are critical in adding more illustration to the theme. “Baseball” is essential, and due to his race, Troy was denied a professional baseball career. Every character in the play has some reservations about fences, making them a possible allegory in the play.
Menson-Furr, Ladrica. August Wilson’s Fences. A&C Black, 2013. Google Books, Web.
Wilson, August. “Fences.” Archive.org, 2009, Web.