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Juxtaposing Fences and Girl

In his famous play Fences, August Wilson reveals one of the central themes that were of great importance for African American citizens in the 1950s, and during the whole history of the country as well – the theme of racial discrimination. The short story Girl by Jamaica Kincaid also touches upon the theme of discrimination, but it is discrimination of another kind – it is gender discrimination. Putting her ideas in the form of a list to do for her daughter, the narrator reveals the true facts regarding the complex fate that women have in the world that belongs to men. This is not the only similarity between these two literary texts, and in the following paper they will be addressed with a purpose of juxtaposing in order to see not only the common themes they reveal, but also the way the authors have similar techniques in developing the main characters of their works, in showing symbolism, and in choosing the setting for the story plots. Overall, the two pieces under consideration can be seen as having a lot in common in the thoughts and ideas discussed in them, and in the literary methods used for relating these thoughts and ideas, which can be explained by the fact that both of the writers have a lot in common in their mentality due to their origin, and due to the history of their nations, and by the fact that they both aim to convey similar message to their audience.

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Themes

Juxtaposing the two pieces of literature under consideration, it should be stated that they have a number of common themes. First, this is the theme of discrimination; however, whereas Wilson discusses the theme of racial discrimination, Kincaid centers on the theme of gender discrimination. In Fences, the theme of racial discrimination saturates the whole story plot of the play. In particular, Troy Maxson, one of the main protagonists of the play, is a brilliant baseball player, but he is not able to play in the best teams of the country because of his race. By means of narrating a piece of advice from mother to her daughter, Kincaid shows that women are limited in their life opportunities and the spheres, where they may realize their potential. In particular, women must be occupied in taking care about men – they have to buy daily food and the other important objects of home usage; they have to cook, wash, iron, clean the house; they must be modest in their conduct so that not to attract too much attention to themselves; and they have to dedicate themselves to loving their men even if it is very difficult.

The other similarity in topics, discussed in the two literary pieces under consideration, is seen in the fact that both of them address the theme of parents admonishing their children. In Fences, Troy Maxson admonishes his son on how to play baseball, how to deal with hardships, and many more; and in Girl, the narrator admonishes her daughter to help her become a deserving lady in their community, and survive in the poor conditions of their country. In Fences, we read, “You swung and you missed. That’s strike one. Don’t you strike out!” (Wilson 42). In these words, the readers may see that Maxson not only admonishes his son on how to play baseball, but his advice is also related to the way his son should live to be successful. The father applies the illustration with baseball to real life matters, and encourages his son to learn an important lesson from it. In Girl, we read, “you mean to say that after all you are really going to be the kind of woman who the baker won’t let near the bread?” (“The Full Text of Girl” para. 78). In these words, the readers see that the mother’s piece of advice to her daughter aims to help her become a deserving lady – a lady of excellent reputation, honored among people.

One more parallel in the themes, addressed in Fences and Girl, is seen in discussing the problems that poor people encounter in their strife to survive. In Fences, the main character, Troy Maxson, becomes a garbage man to provide for his family. This is the life full of hardships and pains, when one has to always fight for his or her bread buttered at least on one side. In Girl, the two main characters are women, who live in a poor country, and the very essence of the mother’s piece of advice to her daughter is dedicated to surviving in the clutches of poverty. It is striking that in such a short literary piece, the author finds enough space to speak (through the character of the girl’s mother) about catching fish and making herbal medicines in order to economize the family budget:

This is how to make a good medicine for a cold; this is how to make a good medicine to throw away a child before it even becomes a child; this is how to catch a fish; this is how to throw back a fish you don’t like and that way something bad won’t fall on you… this is how to make ends meet (“The Full Text of Girl” para. 57-60, 63).

These details and especially, the phrase “this is how to make ends meet”, suggest that the poverty, which these ladies have to face, is no less dismaying than Maxson’s poverty in his senior life period.

Character Type

The depiction of the main characters in the two literary pieces under consideration is also full of parallels. In Fences, the main protagonist, Troy Maxson, is shown as a wise man of strong will, who loves his children and is ready to do everything he can to help them become deserving people in society. Similar character traits are shown by Kincaid in the image of the storyteller. The narrator (unfortunately we only know her as the girl’s mother, and the name is not mentioned) is depicted as a woman of a strong character and remarkable experience. Her reasonableness and shrewdness are outstanding, and her every piece of advice to her daughter comes from the heart full of understanding and knowledge of life. Besides, just like Troy Maxson, this lady is concerned about her daughter’s future which is explained by her immense love to her.

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Symbolism

The two works are full of symbolism. In Fences, the most common symbol is the symbol of baseball, which the main character uses in explaining his way of thinking. In Girl, symbolism is present when the mother talks about moral standards that the girl is to adhere to. To avoid being too explicit and untactful, the mother uses symbols to keep away from the unpleasant emotions, that such rude notions as prostitute, fornication, and loose conduct call in dignified people’s minds.

Setting

Both Fences and Girl are set in the conditions of a yard, where poor people normally live. Especially, in Fences, the audience may feel the sad atmosphere of disorder and pettiness that many of the poor black people have to face on a daily basis. Although, there is no direct description of the setting in Girl, which is explained by the uniqueness of the composition of this short story and its tiny size, the readers may understand that the plot is set in conditions of a poor country, where a mother tries to admonish her daughter to survive and maintain her human dignity.

Conclusion

The two pieces of literature under consideration demonstrate a remarkable level of similarity in their themes, character analysis, symbolism and settings, which can be well seen after juxtaposing them. In particular, both of them address the theme of discrimination, surviving in poverty, and the necessity to admonish children. Both of these texts are set in conditions of places, where extremely poor people live, and they have very similar central characters – Troy Maxson and the mother-narrator in Girl. This suggests a conclusion that the two authors are concerned with the same problems, and want to get them across the wide public so that people could take thoughts about the sad reality that poor and discriminated ones have to face. Such common tendencies in the mastership of the two writers are probably explained by their life experiences that they had to have due to their origin and social position.

References

The Full Text of Girl by Jamaica Kincaid. (n. d.). Web. 2012.

Wilson, August. Fences (August Wilson Century Cycle), The United States: Theatre Communications Group, 2008. Print.

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