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August Wilson “Fences”: Plot and Themes

“Fences” is a Pulitzer-winning American drama play written in 1985 by August Wilson. This work tells the reader about Troy Maxson, a 53-year-old black blue-collar worker and a family leader, and his life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s. Troy’s chaotic inner state and his relationship with those around him, including family members, a brother, and a friend are realistic and detailed throughout the work. In all of this, the adverse effects of his upbringing echoed by Troy’s complicated past and general racist ideas that surrounded him all his life manifest strongly. In “Fences,” the author presses the themes of love, parenting, marriage, and the inner struggles of man under the pressure of social norms and the challenging difficulties of life

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Throughout the work, the reader is introduced step by step to Troy’s brutal past and its influence on his inner state. Troy’s entire life is tainted by the racist ideals of that period and by his abusive father’s influence. His turbulent inner world emerges at the very beginning of the work when he protests against not giving black workers the right to drive in the cleaning service. Troy knows he is valuable, and he is aware of his tremendous potential and self-confidence. The thought that the concept of race did not give him a chance torments him. Troy suffers from the injustice of society and life toward him. However, he does not give up and bravely faces all challenges life throws at him.

Against the background discussed, Troy’s character becomes rigid. The main character often mentions the fence he is building for his wife, Rose. For Troy, however, the walls have a different and much deeper meaning. He seems to be symbolically trying to close off what is valuable to him and protect it from all evil, including death. Troy appears to be a man once full of life, dreams, talent, and hard work (which he has not lost in a lifetime) who has been turned into a cold older man by misfortune. Regardless, sparks of hope nestle in Troy’s family, particularly in his son Cory, which resembles his father and has much in common with him.

As mentioned before, Troy’s experiences have a significant impact on all aspects of his life, including marriage and love. Troy and his wife, Rose, love each other very much. They have endured much together, and Troy feels a great responsibility toward Rose. Nevertheless, Troy betrays Rose with Alberta and even has a daughter with her. It is possible to conclude that Rose is the ideal of a woman, mother, and wife. She does everything she can to support the family. In her character, the reader sees the great strength with which Rose sacrifices herself entirely to the family. Rose’s whole being revolves around

her idea of a perfect family. Rose, like Troy, appears to be marked by social oppression and injustice, but Rose has learned a radically different lesson from all this Troy. She focuses on the positive and tries to give her children what she did not have.

On the other hand, Troy is only concerned with the material side and forgets about the central part of humanity, feelings, expressions of love, and emotional support. Troy tries to escape his reality so hard that he begins a relationship with Alberta, creating a “new world” for himself. Troy attempts to revive his past self but knows it is impossible. For Troy, the concept of morality becomes something of secondary importance. He does not appear to be regretting betrayal and disloyalty to Rose and continues his relationship with Alberta. Regardless of his generally high moral standards, Troy does not accuse himself of committing infidelity. He views his betrayal as something vital to his life and the preservation of his human feelings and desires.

The complexity of the parent-child relationship comes to the fore in “Fences.” Rose and Troy are parents of a radically different nature. Rose is patient, kind, and caring. Nonetheless, Troy is solely concerned with providing material security and satisfying the basic human needs of his family members. It is abnormal for him to show parental warmth to his children, and he seems to be suppressing their dreams and trying to confine them into his fences. Considering Lyon’s musical career worthless, banning Cory from the game of baseball because he was is also heavily influenced by Troy’s life experiences. His methods undermine Troy’s good intentions and hurt those around him. He does not understand that the deeply rooted limits in his mind cannot suppress the dreams of other individuals.

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In his work, Wilson brought to the fore the influence of social norms and life experiences on the individual. Racism, love, betrayal, parenthood, and inner turmoil – these are the topics that the viewer is exposed to in “Fences”.

The battle of a man with social injustice and life challenges and the outcomes of unrealized dreams are central to Wilson’s legendary play.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'August Wilson “Fences”: Plot and Themes'. 19 July.

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