Fences, a play by August Wilson, was published in 1986. The play details the African-American experiences and deals with the themes of racism, infidelity, and forgiveness. This paper explores how Cory, son of Troy and Rose, has avoided following in his father’s footsteps and learned to manage his anger and bitterness in finally forgiving Troy.
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Cory enters the play in Scene 3 of Act 1 as a boy who chooses pleasure over duty, neglecting his chores in favor of the football practice. He is anxious to tell Troy about the recruiter coming to see his game. The dialog about buying television shows that the boy has different priorities than his father does, willing to sacrifice long-term comfort, which the waterproofing of the roof would bring, over an immediate gratification of entertainment. His behavior is typical of an adolescent; he needs his father to approve of him and take pride in his accomplishments.
The boy feels rejected and betrayed when his dream of going to college on a sports scholarship and becoming a professional player is shot down. His father asserts that Cory has no future in football as a person of Color, stating that “The white man ain’t gonna let you get nowhere with that football noway” (Wilson 1165). Troy insists that the boy’s life priorities should be a steady job and a useful trade. Cory is ordered to forget the dream and get his job at A&P back; he protests bitterly but, seemingly, obeys.
“How come you ain’t never liked me?” he asks his father, who replies that providing for a family is a man’s chief duty and that he needs Cory to show respect for that (Wilson 1166). Cory is shown as trying to be like his father, a former baseball player; wanting to please him and be liked in return, he is a son in need of his father’s love where there is none.
The End of the Dream
Still unwilling to abandon his dream, the boy irresponsibly continues with football practices and lies to his family about getting the job back. When Troy finds out, he speaks to the coach and ensures that his son will never play football again. Cory then bitterly states that “You just scared I’m gonna be better than you, that’s all” (Wilson 1171). Only discovering his father’s infidelity makes him ready for a first confrontation, one not yet physical. Driven by a profound love for his mother and a responsibility to protect her, he no longer respects his father.
Cory is Cast Away
Cory now sees his father as a weak man, manipulative and greedy for power. In scene 4 of Act 2, an unexpected showdown happens when Troy spitefully prevents him from going to the house by sitting in the middle of the steps.”You in my way. I got to get by”, repeats Cory, but his father still demands respect and obedience (Wilson 1177). Troy asserts the boy is indebted to him as a son; in a violent argument, the baseball bat is grabbed, and Cory loses the fight and is banished. Now a bitter young man, he has finally stood up to his father, having seen him not as a hero but as a mortal man, and not the wisest or kindest.
Funeral and Forgiveness
Bitterness over his father’s actions still haunts Cory seven years later as he returns home just after his father’s death, refusing to attend the actual funeral. An exemplary Marine, he has made his mother proud. Rose’s speech about every boy needing to grow into his father’s shadow, or cut it down according to one’s personality, is what persuades Cory to attend the funeral. His love for his remaining family leads him to forgive his father. Understanding that Troy had no acceptable parenting model, he chooses forgiveness over bitterness, thus showing wisdom and compassion.
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Cory starts as a naive teenager, not yet aware of the hardships of life; his father is his hero. His only dream is football, and the bitterness towards Troy for denying him that dream lasts for years. One might assume that Cory is childish in his lies and reactions, but so is Troy, as evident by his explanations for his infidelity. After being banished from the family, Cory does not repeat his father’s past of homelessness and criminal behavior. Showing that he can become a better man than his father, he becomes a responsible adult, able to feel empathy, forgive, and let go of the past.