The Symbol Of A Fence In The Movie Fences

The movie fences is a movie that was produced and directed by Denzel Washington and carries many themes with it. “Fences” takes place in the 1950s in Pittsburgh. The movie portrays various themes such as family dynamics, personal truths, the power of forgiveness. Troy Maxson, a working class African-American father is a sanitation worker, working a shift with his best friend Jim Bono. He has been married to his wife, Rose for 18 years and together they have a son named Cory. Troy struggles to raise his family in the 1950s, while coming to terms with the events of his life. Maxson had once dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, but this opportunity was stripped away from him because he was recognized as too old when the major leagues began admitting black athletes. Bitter over his missed opportunity, he projects his anger and his other suppressed emotions and family secrets onto everyone around him but particularly Cory, who has the potential to be a football star. This creates even further more family tensions. The name of the movie itself holds a strong symbol. The term “fences” in this movie is used in numerous occasions in an intelligent way to portray some of the events in the movie.

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“Fences” is used as a symbol for protection throughout Rose and Troy Maxson’s relationship and also Troy protecting himself against death. Fences are created in this movie to symbolize physical protection or to protect. The use of the fence helps the audience gain a better understanding of the events going on in the characters lives. The characters lives mentioned, for example Rose change around the fence which serves as both a literal and a figurative symbol, representing the relationships that bond and break in the backyard of their house.

An example of where fences was symbolized was through Rose and Troy’s struggles in their relationship. Their not so stable relationship is depicted through the cakes Rose makes for her church. With the anger she holds about Troy’s lack of commitment, she says “And don’t be eating the rest of them cakes in there.’ The cakes symbolize a fence between Rose and Troy. Rose relates to the cakes herself as she decides to not follow Troy’s duties anymore after his acts. By her mentioning that he shouldn’t touch the cakes, she is referring to herself too. Troy’s lack of commitment and him delaying to finish building the fence shows his lack of commitment in his marriage. After he cheated on Rose, their relationship began to fall apart. Troy would come home to Rose saying that his dinner is ‘in there on the stove’. With their relationship beginning to fail, Rose turned away from Troy and turned to the church making it clear to him that he is a ‘womanless man’ due to his own faults. Rose and Troy’s relationship throughout the movie weakens and strengthens but with Troy crossing the line by cheating on Rose, a permanent fence is built between that Troy cannot easily break.

Another occasion in the movie where the term “fences” was symbolized is when Rose used it to portray her love for her family. Early on in the movie, Rose sings, “Jesus, be a fence all around me every day. Jesus, I want you to protect me as I travel on my way”. Rose singing this song portrays her desire for protection. To Rose, a fence is a symbol of her love for her family. She asked Troy and Cory to build the fence for her but they think the fence is a burden and reluctantly work on finishing it. In a conversation between Bono, Troy’s close friend and Troy, he mentions that “some people build fences to keep people out and other people build fences to keep people in. Rose wants to hold on to you all.” Bono also advices Troy to use soft pine wood for the fence to lessen the workload but he chose to his hard wood. Him choosing to use hard wood for the fence instead of the soft pine wood indicates how he is trying to gain his protection from death and all of his past problems.

Throughout the movie, Troy has this image of Death which he tries to protect himself from. He personifies death into a person, “Mr. Death”. While talking about Death, Troy mentions how he met him and has no fear of him as he says, ‘Death ain’t nothing. I done seen him. Done wrassled with him. You can’t tell me nothing about Death.” The specific scene from the movie portrays Troy as a very strong man who says he can manage anything that approaches at him. Troy has a close encounter with Death when Alberta, his mistress, dies during labor and right then he decides he is going finish the fence as he says, ‘Alright Mr. Death. See now? I’m gonna take and build me a fence around this yard. And then I want you to stay on the other side.’ Death persuaded Troy to finally build the fence. Rose wanted the fence built earlier on but he was reluctant to it but when Alberta dies, he built it immediately which shows how every character had their own interpretation of the fence. Troy only builds to keep Death out and away from him, not because Rose requests it built. Although each character in the movie interprets the concept of a fence differently, they all see it as some form of protection.

The symbol of a fence is used as a literary and figurative tool to help paint images in the audience’s mind. Characters are protected mentally and physically by their own interpretation of fences. The characters are at peace with their fences.

31 August 2020

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