August Wilson is one of the renowned American playwrights who displayed the complexity of the American society. Fences can be seen as one of his most referenced works that dwell upon the challenges of African Americans’ lives in the USA of the 1950s. The play uncovers the story of the life of Troy, a man of remarkable “honesty, capacity for hard work, and… strength” and his family, who try to pursue their dreams (Wilson 1). The piece can also be seen as an illustration of racial issues and the way they were addressed by different people in the middle of the twentieth century. Wilson offers many themes to discuss based on the major characters of the play.
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For example, Troy and his son, Cory, are the most prominent figures associated with such themes as the American Dream. This paper includes a brief analysis of Wilson’s Fences with a focus on the theme mentioned above.
First, it is necessary to define the American Dream to explore the way it is employed in the play under consideration. The American Dream is the belief that hard work, creativity, and commitment can make a person successful in the USA, the country of great opportunities. Many people try to pursue this dream while others become disappointed with it. Troy is one of those who lost their faith in access to opportunities due to his failed attempts to play in the Major League Baseball.
In the first part of the twentieth century, the American society was highly segregated, and people of color hardly ever achieved high results in sports or other spheres of life. Troy was one of the best players of the Negro League, and he believes he was not allowed to go higher since he “wasn’t the right color” (Wilson 39). However, it becomes clear that racial discrimination was not the major reason as Troy was rather old to be in that league and had a criminal record. Moreover, the protagonist of the play refuses to see the changes that have taken place and does not allow his son to play in his school baseball team. Troy’s wasted chances in the past prevents his son, Cory, from pursuing his own dream.
Whereas Troy is an illustration of unrealized potential, his son can be seen as an example of diligence and commitment that can help people make their dreams come true. Cory does not disobey his father and abandons his attempts to play sports. The young man is reluctant to give his dream as he sees it as the chance he has received. He even says, “You just scared I’m gonna be better than you, that’s all” (Wilson 59).
The son is only partially wrong as his father wants him to be happy and choose the right path. Nevertheless, one of the reasons for being so stubborn can be Troy’s subconscious fear that his son will use the chance he failed to grab. Troy chooses to ignore the fact that African Americans have become a part of the Major League Baseball, which makes his son’s prospects to succeed very high. Troy still sees fences rather than opportunities, so he does not let his son pursue the American Dream. Although Cory does not become a baseball player, he finds another way to be successful and joins the army.
The way the two dreams are wasted shows the playwright’s attitude towards the wrongs of the American society. Wilson suggests that the American Dream was for Whites exclusively since African Americans could not realize their full potential irrespective of the effort they invested. Interestingly, the author also shows that White Americans’ perspectives were completely responsible for this situation. People of color had attitudes that prevented them from being faithful to their dreams.
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Troy’s disbelief in his son’s possibilities and opportunities, as well as Cory’s choice to join the army instead of trying to focus on a sports career, led to the end of their dreams. Obviously, segregation was a substantial barrier to achieving high results for African Americans, but this population tended to build fences that contributed to the intensification of the social divide.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that August Wilson’s Fences unveil the challenges people of color had to address in the 1950s when trying to pursue the American Dream. Although those people were diligent and hardworking, as well as committed and talented, they had to overcome many barriers in the segregated society. At the same time, African Americans were also haunted by certain ideas that transformed into obstacles or fences.
Troy’s experiences in baseball made him skeptical about colored people’s success in this sphere. His attitude makes him insist on his son’s choosing another area, although the latter dreams about baseball and is a promising player. Despite the fact that the middle of the twentieth century seems to be a distant period, some elements of past attitudes remain rather strong. Underprivileged populations still find it difficult to pursue their American Dream due to existing hindrances and their own fears and prejudice.
Wilson, August. Fences. Penguin, 2019.