Fences: Triumph And Hypocrisy
In August Wilson’s “Fences” each character goes through things that will define the character in their life. The chooses they make will also affect each and every member of the family. In the Maxon family as a whole they juxtapose one another with their own personal struggles that they go through. All of the events that they endure together as a family will correspond with the overall themes of the play.
The play begins when Troy, the main character of the play, and his friend who he also works with Bono getting paid. They decide to go to Troy’s house to drink and talk which is something they do every week after work. We then find out that Troy and Rose’s son Cory got recruited by a college football team. Troy himself was in a sport growing up but never got to go pro because discrimination ended when he was too old to play. Troy then decides to go to court against his job as a garbage man so that black people can use the lifts instead of just picking up the trash, he wins this court battle and becomes the first African American man to use the lifts. Troy bails his brother Gabriel out of jail and there will be a hearing for him to determine if he should be recommitted in an asylum. As the play goes on Troy tells Bono that he’s having an affair with a woman named Alberta. When Troy tells Rose about the affair and that Alberta is pregnant, she fights with him saying he’s only taken from her and given her nothing. Troy then tries to grab Rose’s arm, but Cory grabs him from behind. They fight and in the end Troy wins. Alberta goes into labor early and dies from child birth. She had a girl and named her Raynell. When Troy returns with the baby from the hospital Rose tells him that Gabriel was put into an asylum because Troy didn’t read the papers that would keep him out. She also decides to take Raynell in as one of her own children but warns Troy that she refuses to be obedient as his wife. As time passes Troy insists that Cory leave the house and provide for himself. Cory then taunts him by talking about what he did to his mom and how Gabriel should really be the one that owns the house since it’s his disability checks that pay for a majority of the mortgage. This of course makes Troy mad and he starts to attack Cory physically. When the fight end Cory leaves and doesn’t come back. Eight years later Raynell is all grown up and we find out that Troy has died of a heart attack. Cory returns home to see his mother but refuses to go to the funeral, but Rose lets him know that it won’t turn him into a man. Then Gabriel comes back either being released or escaping the asylum and tries to play his trumpet, but it won’t blow. Out of frustration and angry he cries out to the sky and then the heavens open up for him. The play ends with him saying “That’s the way it goes”.
Troy goes through countless trials in his lifetime. Coming from a southern background and moving to the north his pride and need for excellence drives a division between him and his sons. Troy does whatever he thinks is right, even though the people around him warn him that the things he’s doing may have consequences, he stubbornly pursues his own course of action. At first, Troy is very loved by his family and seen has this role model for the family and a loving loyal husband to Rose. As the play goes on, his character develops into this hypocritical person with everyone around him because he demands that his sons have practical and responsible lives when he himself rebels against his marriage and his job. This attitude change affects every character drastically in the play but especially his son Cory.
At the beginning of the play, it seems like Cory is really trying to be like his father and is trying to make his father proud of him. Cory and Troy constantly go back and forth with each other and fight constantly. It seems as if Wilson created these two characters to be alike in the sense that Cory like his dad want to play sports, but at the same time so different since Cory got picked up by someone and Troy was never able too. Troy can’t acknowledge that times have changed and instead of giving in to what everyone around him is saying, he chooses his own course of action, based on his own thoughts about the world. Instead of allowing his son to pursue his dreams of football and college, Troy destroys them by refusing to sign the permission paper and preventing the college recruiter from coming. Though Cory begins the play trying to be like his father, he ends it by trying to escape him. Troy misses a chance of a good relationship with his son because of his own insecurities and loses his son forever. At the end of the play, we’re given hope that Cory will be able to find some middle ground within himself. It seems likely that he’ll be able to take the good things his father taught him and leave the bad things behind him, especially since he’s passed away. It could be that the violent cycle of a father and son rivalry that began between them may just be over and done with.
There are three main themes of the play, family, betrayal and dreams. For the theme of family, we see Troy struggle to fulfill his role as a good father to his son and loyal husband to his wife. Troy doesn’t do such a good job in either of these roles before he dies. However, we see that the family has grown by his example, weather that be to not do the same things he did in his life or that they all want to be a stronger family now that he is gone. “Fences” shows many different types of betrayal within the family. Troy manages to betray just about everyone in his life. Though many of the characters are hurt by Troy’s actions, the final scene shows that they try to have respect for him and that he may not have tried to intentionally hurt and betray all of them. Troy has had all his dreams taken from him. He wanted more than anything to be a pro baseball player, but his career never moved forward because of racial discrimination. The conflicts of the play centers around Troy refusing to let Cory play football and go to college. The play explores how the damaged dreams of one generation can damage the dreams of the next. Cory is forced to find a way to form new dreams out of the ones he’s lost. All of these themes shed light on how Troy’s development changed throughout the play by going deeper into the character and explaining why he chose to do the things he did as a character. These themes also shed light on why Cory and Troy contradict one another as characters and how their constant bickering creates the themes of “Fences”.
In conclusion, August Wilson’s play shows us how crushed hopes and dreams can affect not only them but everyone around them. All the characters of the play will be forever affected by Troy’s choices even after his passing. Even through all the pain and struggles, their still and family. “Fences” shows how family can be torn apart but also put back together again.
The Norton Introduction to Literature, “Shorter12thEdition.” Ed., Kelly J. Mays. Norton, 2017. Pg. 1187-1239.
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