Fences by August Wilson
The story Fences is about Troy Maxson who has gone through much in life. His life is one frustrating lot in which not only everything but also everyone around hi m appears to be unfair, unjust and unsustainable. Troy, while drinking with his friend spills out all his resentment about the unfair society. He complains about how he is trapped in his job where he is racially discriminated against because he is a black. As a black, the only thing he can be assigned by his supervisor is the handling of garbage alone. He is not even allowed to drive the garbage trucks.
Their labor group sued Troy’s supervisor because of this discriminatory practice. Troy is married to Rose, the only thing near to or resembling sanity or sincerity in Troy’s life, and both have a son called Cory Maxson. Cory, Rose and Lyons (Troy’s son but from another woman) are the only closest people to Troy. Troy’s family is part of his frustrations. For instance, Troy is in constant arguments and with his son Cory. Cory is an athlete and has tried his hand in the leagues and has a chance of being taken based on his merits.
However, his father believes that Cory should not forego his job at the grocers and go wasting his time at the leagues . be4cause he has no chance to be chosen because, just like his father, he is black. Troy as youth had a chance of shining in the leagues but his dreams were shattered suddenly after being ejected from the league just because he was black ignoring the fact that he was competent in the game. Because of what happened to him as a youth, Troy thinks that his father will be well off concentrating in his job because he has no chance of being chosen.
His view about the league find no favor in Cory who believes that time has changed and his merits will determine his success. Because of their conflicting views, the two are always at logger heads. Cory ends up disobeying his father and pursues his dream of becoming a professional football player through the leagues. The only explanation that Troy gets to give to his stance about Cory’s involvement in the leagues is the fact that he also did the same thing and failed and if he failed his son too is bound to fail.
This is rather a myopic view and it is possible that it has been brought about by his failures in life: Tried his hand in the leagues, shone but was ejected on racist grounds, taken to jail and later on ends up in a degrading and unskilled job as a garbage man. His failures have clouded his mind and he can’t see any possibility for change either in his life or in his sons’. Lyons, Troy’s son from another woman, grew with his mother alone while Troy was in prison grows without his father’s presence because he was in prison.
Being alone with his mother, Lyons learnt to make his own decisions especially in the absence of his father. He learnt about life the hard way and his way. However, one striking thing is that despite all the time that his father was in Jail, Lyons still appreciates Troy’s position as his father and believes that as his father, Troy has to stand by him as he pursues his dream in music. The fact that Lyons is working and still depends on his father for money and other needs add to Troy’s frustrations.
Lyons depends on his father and often borrows money from him which he finally refunds fully. All that Lyons wants is a connection with his father maybe to compensate for the quality time lost when Troy was in Jail. Cory on the other hand believes that his father’s conviction of the impossibility of change in his life or the lives of his sons is a misplaced one thus disobeys him to pursue his dream unperturbed by his father’s sentiments. He believes that the circumstances during his father’s time cannot affect him now the same way they did to his father (Ching, 1988: pp70-71).
The world has changed and the society taken on a meritocratic approach and hence Cory has a strong conviction that only his athletic merits stand between him and the achievement of his dream of becoming a professional football player. There is marked differences between the identity of Troy and the identities of his sons. Lyons and Cory are bent to achieving their dreams no matter what. They will not stop at anything. They are bent to achieve what they have put their hearts into and have decided not to give in to the intimidation posed by some circumstances some of which are only imagined by their disillusioned father.
Their father’s philosophy of the racial discrimination against blacks which shatter the dreams harbored in the blacks’ hearts is indeed discouraging but they choose to ignore or rather disobey him and forge on towards their dreams. The tenacity of their hopes is far much better than that of their father’s. Besides Cory and Lyons causing Troy’s frustration, Gabriel Maxson, Troy’s brother adds to the Frustration. Gabriel is mentally incapacitated courtesy to the mortal injuries he sustained in the World War II.
Troy has to be his care taker and this is the bit that frustrates him. Paradoxically, besides Troy detesting his role as his insane brother’s caretaker he likes the job because it comes with some financial gain which he use to build his house. Being the sole caretaker of his insane brother, Troy automatically qualifies to be the sole beneficiary of his brother’s pension from the army. So far the story is all about the misfortunes, failures and frustrations of Troy.
His family members (only his sons and brother but his wife is the only resemblance of sanity and an acute representation of sincerity as far as Troy is concerned) cause him unending frustrations, he is trapped in a job he doesn’t appreciate and constantly blames the unfair society for his anguish. Based on this, the story, Fences, is seen to be showcasing Troy’s struggles through the brunt and the misfortunes of life. All his life he has been engaged in an eternal pursuit for reprieve from not only his personal failures but also from a myriad of other issues such as prejudice, discrimination (racial) and inequality.
Troy’s life cries out aloud for emancipation from his burdening struggle with family, job and the society in general. There is confusion in Troy’s life that makes him to even take for granted the positive things in his life. For instance, he went ahead and cheats on his wife, rose, with another woman, Alberta with whom they get a child. Misfortune knocks when Alberta dies at child birth and Troy turns to the inherent goodness of his wife to fix the problem. He pleads with his wife and the wife accepts to take care of Alberta’s child.
As mentioned earlier, Troy’s life is synonymous to struggle and the penultimate one is that of trying to put up a fence around his house. Rose tries to get all the men in his life to get tom fix the fence the house but the men are preoccupied with their dreams (shattered, elusive or elusive) which suffocates the harmony of the family. The men are constantly pursuing their dreams if they are not crying foul of over their shattered dreams all these at the expense of not only the harmony but also the unity of the family. The Parallelism and Symbolism in the Story
Parallelism The story, Fences, revolves around, strongly, around a parallelism between Troy’s past and Cory’s present life especially on the issue concerning participation in the league. Troy’s past experience at the league makes him believe that his black son cannot make it through the league to become a professional football player (his son’s ultimate dream). He is convinced that his son is better off concentrating in his job other with the grocers other than wasting his time pursuing a dream that the racial discriminate society cannot allow him to achieve.
Contrary to his father’s beliefs, Cory is convinced that his father’s times and circumstances were different from his and only his merit in the game is the only parameter that can be used to measure his likelihood of attaining his dream. In other words, it is only his athletic capability that stands between him and his coveted and longed for status of a professional football player. Generally, the lives of troy and his son go through the same road especially on the bit about the league but contrary to Troy’s lack of persistence, Cory will not stop at anything (leave alone his fathers discouraging attitude) until he achieves his dream.
Symbolism The representation of attributes of objects, events, things or relationships by use of symbols in a bid to hide express meaning but deliver symbolic meanings or significance or significance is called symbolism. Symbolism as used in literature may be construed to mean the use of one thing to represent another. The things use are usually not related at all but one is used to symbolize the other. For instance, the use of lion has often symbolized brevity while and hyena has been used in most tales to symbolize cowardice. The lion and brevity have no correlation at all.
The same case applies to the hyena and cowardice (Bigelow, 1976:p1). In the story, Fences, the style of symbolism has been applied. The title “fences” in the story is in itself symbolic. Putting a fence around Troy’s house was one of the myriad of things that Troy struggled with. Troy struggled with the erection of the fence to no avail. Interestingly, Rose, Troy’s wife, also tried to bring the men in her life (Troy and his sons) to erect the fence but to no avail. The only time the fence was erected was after Troy died (of heart attack).
All the time during her effort, all the men were preoccupied with their dreams: Troy was crying foul of his shattered dreams blaming the unfair and discriminate society for his failures and misfortunes in life, Lyons was pursuing his elusive dream of becoming a musician whereas Cory was totally absorbed in the pursuit of his seemingly achievable dream (Birdwell, 1990). The fence symbolizes the unity and harmony of the Maxson’s family and the fact that the fence is not erected until the death of Troy proves the point that Troy did not present the favorable environment for the installation of the fence.
It is believed that anything that is contained belongs and the fence that could have contained the house of the Maxson’s could have signified the unity and harmony of the family indeed. Troy did not enable the installation of the fence or the enactment of unity and harmony in his house (family) as a father should because he was busy crying foul of his shattered dreams and blaming the unfair and discriminate society for his failure, misfortunes and life’s frustrations. Troy’s preoccupation over his life’s woes apparently made him forget about everything else.
He forgot to give his sons freedom to choose what they wanted to do, failed to encourage his sons to pursue their dreams because he himself was disillusioned and also forgot to enact unity and harmony in his house as a husband and father should. One thing that he apparently forgot and which led to his eternal state of apathy was the fact that despite his failures, misfortunes and his woes in life, change was still possible. Generally, Troy did not coordinate his family to build the fence as the head of the family. If anything, he scuttled the efforts or frustrated any effort towards the achievement of the fence including his own efforts.
When he died the fence was achievable. In conclusion, the writer of the story showcases the woes in Troy’s life to not only prove a few evils of the society but also to encourage those who may find themselves in Troy’s shoes that all is not lost. One of the evils he highlights is the racial discrimination practice which stifles talent and shatters life. Secondly, the writer advices that family in times of trouble and misfortune should remain together because this kind of harmony and unity, the Fence, may help to alleviate the brunt that life presents.
Finally, the author among other things wants to assert the concept of individuality and encouraging the younger generation to fix the misgivings of the foregoing generation. If you fail to achieve something in life doesn’t mean that your son or daughter will automatically do the same. In fact if anything, as a parent one is supposed to encourage the son or daughter to go for it with the brevity aggression because his/her achievement may alleviate your discouragement and disillusionment attitude towards life (Barnes, 1987).
References Bigelow Gordon, 1976: The Poet’s Third Eye: A Guide to the Symbolisms of Modern Literature Philosophical Library, p1 Barnes Clive, 1987: Fiery ‘Fences’ New York Post, March 27, 1987. Birdwell Christine, 1990: Death as a Fastball on the Outside Corner; Fences’ Troy Maxson and the American Dream, Aethlon, The Journal of Sport Literature, Volume 8, no I, 1990, pp 87-96. Ching, Mei-Ling, 1988: Wrestling against History, Theater, Volume 19, no 3, pp 70-71Sample Essay of StudyFaq.com