The Meaning Of The Fences
“Fences” by August Wilson is a story about Troy Maxson, who was a victim of extreme social injustice. Troy Maxson was a talented baseball player. However, he had to give up his dream because he was rejected to play for many teams. Because of his past, he did everything to prevent Cory who was his son from playing sports. This play depicts American society after War World II. America became a powerful country with a strong economy and military. However, while America was increasing its power, the contradictions in this country became more complicated than ever.
There was a wide gap between rich and poor. In addition, there was racial discrimination that black people have to suffer every day no matter how hard they work and how hard they try to change. Besides the racial fence, this play also describes the fences that Rose and Troy tried to build to protect their family. Nevertheless, the fences that Troy built became the barriers between him and all his family members. After reading this play, the readers can better understand the different symbolisms of the fences for different characters and the message that August Wilson wants to send.
The first meaning of the fence in this play is the racism in American society in the past that prevented colored people from doing what they wanted. In this play, Troy always complained that black men could not get a better job because they are black. He said: “I went to Mr. Rand and asked him, “Why?” Why you got the white mens driving and the colored lifting?” Told him, “what’s the matter, don’t I count?” You think only white fellows got sense enough to drive a truck. How come you got all whites driving and the colored lifting?” (Wilson 2). Troy got mad because white people always got a better position. He believed that there was no justice in everything for colored people. Troy even got crazier when he knew his son, Cory, went and got recruited by a college football team because he believed that Cory would not have many chances to show his ability among white people, and his future would become worse if he followed this path.
The reason for Troy’s belief is he was rejected to play for many baseball teams in the past even though he was a good player. Because of the extreme racism, social inequality was embedded in his mind and he always had a negative thought about this life. Therefore, when Rose told him that there were a lot of colored men playing ball then and also mentioned about Jackie Robinson, Troy responded strongly: “What you talking about Jackie Robinson. Jackie Robinson wasn’t nobody. I’m talking about if you could play ball then they ought to have let you play. Don’t care what color you were. Come telling me I come along too early. If you could play… then they ought to let you play” (Wilson 10). Troy’s attitude about this life made an invisible fence that prevented his son from following his dream. The racism in American society in the past created an invisible barrier for colored people to develop themselves. Moreover, they also had to work hard and try hard to change racial prejudice.
Because of the racism and Troy’s experience in the past, this play also depicts the fences between Troy and his family members. The trauma from the past made Troy Maxson spent his whole life to build a fence to protect his family from social injustice. However, he did not know that his anxiety was turned into an invisible barrier that prevented him from getting closer to his family. It also prevented him from loving his life and seeing the continuous progress of American society in the period of transformation. The most apparent fence that the readers can see from this play is the fence between Troy and Cory. There were a lot of arguments between them. Troy did everything he could to stop Cory involving in any sports which were Cory’s hobby and passion because he did not want Cory to be like him. However, the point is that Troy did not try to understand his son, and he acted like a harsh father to Cory. Instead of putting himself to Cory’s shoes, Troy always forced Cory to obey everything he said, and he thought that he was always right because he had experienced a traumatic past in a racial society. Troy had the same attitude to Lyons, who is his oldest son. Troy did not respect Lyons’ passion and he always said harsh words to Lyons and told him what he should do to live even though he was not the one who raised his oldest son. Troy did everything to his sons just because he did not want them to be like him.
However, Troy was affected by the way his father treated him in the past, so he did not know how to treat them properly. The way Troy treated his sons made them stay away from him more than sympathy for him. Troy not only built a fence between himself and his sons but also built a fence between himself and his poor wife who always devoted to him. Because he was a self-centered person and was too prideful, he always thought that he was the only one provided everything for his family. Moreover, Troy did not seem to feel guilty about what he did to Rose when he said that he could sit up in Alberta’s house and laugh, and he did not have to worry about the bills. He also said: “It’s not easy for me to admit that I been standing in the same place for eighteen years.” (Wilson 70) When he said that, it seems like he was fed up with his life for eighteen years. It was unfair to Rose when Troy said all those things because he should know that his wife was the one who had been living with him for eighteen years. She also had dreams, hopes, and things that she wanted but she still held on Troy and her family and did everything to keep her family’s happiness. However, Troy did not respect her at all. He cheated on her and said words that made her upset. Troy pushed his wife further through his actions and words.
On the other hand, the fence that Troy built is also the thing that he wanted to use to protect his family from death. After Alberta’s death, Troy got angry and yelled at death. He said: “I’m gonna build me a fence around what belongs to me. And then I want you to stay on the other side.” (Wilson 77). Alberta’s death made Troy realize that he needed to do something to protect his family from death. He wanted Mr. Death to keep away from what belonged to him, and he did not want Mr. Death to take anyone from him anymore. Besides, the fence here symbolizes the boundary between Troy’s life and death. He said: “This is between you and me. Man to man. You stay on the other side of that fence until you ready for me.” (Wilson 77). It means Troy was ready to confront death, but he did not want anyone from his family to be related to death. Although Troy mentioned about death as an obvious thing in life before, he started worrying about death after Alberta’s death. He started to know that life was really important, and it was not easy to accept death.
Another meaning of the image of the fence that the readers can easily get is Rose’s protection for her family. Throughout this play, Rose kept reminding Troy to build the fence for their house. Both Troy and Cory did not know why she wanted a fence, but Bono knew exactly what Rose meant with this fence. As Bono said: “Some people build fences to keep people out… and other people build fences to keep people in. Rose wants to hold on you all. She loves you” (Wilson 61). Through Bono’s words, Rose’s love for her family is expressed clearly. Rose wanted to hold on all her family members, and she did not want anyone to step in and ruin her family’s happiness. However, the fence that Rose tried to build was not stable. Her effort to keep them with her was futile because Troy still slept with another woman, and Cory left their house after fighting with Troy.
August Wilson wrote an impressive play which depicts the unfairness of American society in the past, and it also shows the readers all the meaning of the fences. In a positive way, the fences are the things that Troy and Rose wanted to use to protect their family. However, Troy made the fences that he was trying to build became the invisible barriers between him and his family members. Through this literary device, August Wilson gives the audience the message that even though people have gone through terrible things in the past, they should not be stuck in the past and isolate themselves from society and the world. It just makes people around them leave them gradually.
Therefore, people should not build the fences as Troy did in this play because the way he built the fences made his life worse and inadvertently created distance with his family members. People should build a fence to protect those who they love with love and sharing. The playwright also wants the audience to know that family is really important to their life, so they should treat their family in the best way you can. Also, the playwright wants the audience to do all their best to pursue their dreams, and do not regret or have a negative thought about life if their dreams do not come true because it does not make them feel better. The negative attitude will make their life worse, and it also has bad effects on people around them. Furthermore, people should live and cherish the present instead of living in the past and being too harsh with people around them. What happened in the past are the lessons for people to learn and make themselves better, so they should accept the past and try their best to live for the present and future.
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