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Fences Essay

1813 words - 8 pages

Jake Cashen
Prof. Ahrens
English 102
In 1965, August Wilson’s “Fences” was created as the fifth part of his Pittsburg Cycle of dramas of the 20th Century investigation of the evolution of black culture (Gantt, 1; Gantt, 2).The play uses symbolism and metaphors that tell the late life story of Troy Maxon and the family that surrounds him. Even from the beginning of the drama there is conflict and foreshadowing that can be attributed to his own belief that he has failed in life, and that the world did not give him what he deserved. He believes that he has to go outside of the family to find refuge and that is how the story begins and ends.
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The start of the drama introduces the plight of the African American to prepare the audience. The audience needs to look at the drama from the 1950s based on the social and economic conditions of the African American in that decade. The African Americans of the 1950s were looked upon as less than citizens, and definitely the lowest of the immigrants that were coming to America to find a better life. Many of the African Americans in the cities had migrated to the North, which instead of taking them in with open arms, pushed them aside giving them barely the necessities of life. It is this aspect of their life that Wilson wants the audience to understand throughout this play (Burbank, 117). He introduces the fence in this part as well, so the audience will recognize the importance of the fence as a symbol throughout the play on several levels, both societal and individual.
Once the setting and atmosphere was set, Wilson immediately takes the audience into the seemingly happy life of Troy Maxon, before making it apparent that he felt a failure and not happy. The first symbol that arises is the difference between the white people and the black people. Troy takes a stand and asks why black people never get to drive the trash trucks. Most of his coworkers believe that he will be fired. Luckily, by the end of the play, the audience realized that Troy made a giant step for all African Americans, but he still is not satisfied by his accomplishment, and what he has been given. It is not enough. This theme of not being satisfied and believing that something is not enough will permeate throughout all the symbols used in this drama.
Another common symbol are sports and the individual’s dreams of the future. Troy had been in the Negro League and played baseball until he was over 40 years old. The problem in regard to baseball arises when Troy is overlooked by the newly desegregated professional baseball league due to his old age. His dreams of playing for the professional white league were smashed, and he had nothing to show his worth in the years that followed. That is he believed that he was nothing because he never made it to the big leagues (Gantt,10). Unfortunately, this failure affected Troy in not only his career but also mentally. From that time on he saw his family and his life as a failure he wanted to escape from. However, he felt a responsibility to them.
This feeling of failure continues into the relationship that Troy has with his son, Cory. Cory is an excellent football player, and yet, Troy refuses to acknowledge his son’s ability even when he is recruited by a college. Troy cannot and will not let Cory succeed where he failed and refuses to let Cory go to college on a football scholarship (Gantt, 10). But this is not the only time that Troy shows resentment of his son. In Act 1, Scene 3, Cory asks Troy “How come you ain’t never liked me?” (Wilson, 504). Troy is angry at this question and tells Cory that “…it’s my...

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