Essay on Fences by August Wilson

Fences is a play written by August Wilson, an American playwright who wrote a series of the works on the topic of African-American experience in the 20th century. Paying much attention to race relations, he explored this issue in many of his works. Fences was not an exception.

The main focus in this play is given to the character of Troy Maxson and the author primarily describes how the actions of Troy influence those who surround him, namely his wife Rose, his son Cory, his brother Gabriel, his oldest son Lyons from the previous marriage, and his fellow Jim Bono, who worked as a garbage collector like Troy. Being an aggressive person, Troy makes the relationships with his family members complicated all the time, which makes the lives of everyone much harder. He is the example of a man who is not able to build healthy relationships inside his family, with the closest people he has. Troy’s behavior is largely affected by his early life and racism, which is why he tends to destroy the intentions and ambitions of his family.

In the Fences we meet Troy as a garbage collector at the age of fifty-three. Wilson describes the character as a man with mighty hands and a strong will to live. When Troy was just fourteen years old, he had a falling out with his father, which made him leave the parent’s house and look for ways to survive. Having no ideas what to do with his life, he became a thief. Later on, he will execute a murder and will be imprisoned.

While in the prison for fifteen years, Troy practiced volley-ball to perfection and became one of the best players. However, being angry at the racist practices that did not allow him to participate in the baseball league, he did his best to prevent his son Cory from the possibility to make his dream of playing football come true. However, Cory is supposed to have a bright future in football. Troy behaves in such a way because he couldn’t forget what they did to his dream in sports, so he was afraid that his son will be discriminated simply because of his skin color. Giving his son no choice to decide to live the way he wanted and do what he wanted, Troy transfers the pain of his own life to his son.

Troy’s character may seem to be ambiguous. He loves his wife, has good relationships with his fellow Jim Bono, and is trying to recover passion he lost with Alberta, a woman who gave birth to his elder son. Troy doesn’t want to harm anyone, including his son. He strives to be a survivor just like at the times when he left his father’s home and protected those he loved from the same sorrows and obstacles he has gone through in his life. With his actions, he is trying to deliver to Cory the main message that nothing in this life comes easy. From the other hand, Troy is applying his own will on his son, making it impossible for Cory to investigate life making his own mistakes and learning the lessons life may bring to him. This results in the conflicts between dad and son as they can’t negotiate and come to an agreement.

Throughout the play, we can see how the character of Cory changes. First we meet him as a cheerful and ambitious child who dreams big. With every next conflict and confrontation with his father, we can notice that he begins to look a lot like his father. He copies the same characteristics and becomes bitter just like Troy.

Such a model of relationships illustrates how parents influence their children, making them feel successful or completely poor. In Cory’s case, the person doesn’t see the opportunities he used to see.

So, the story about Troy is not just about him, even though he is the main character. It describes how a man can lose his potential in terms of the cruel reality he lives in, how issues like racism can change consciousness and life of everyone and how society viewed African Americans back in the 1950s. Although Troy loved his family, he couldn’t express it in the manner of love, because his character and decision was mostly affected by the past experience from racism he had gone through. His relations with the younger son reflect it all in the best way.