Fences by August Wilson is a play full of baseball imagery, which is key to understanding the writing. Being a play the reader must interpret the scenes from emotions, setting, tone, and interpretation. This gives them insight to how August Wilson wants to portray the book. Being a white man writing from the perspective of a poor black man he sends the reader back into a time where blacks were inferior. They were pushed into a life where they could never climb the social ladder in sports or work. Troy being a former baseball player holds resentment towards the world and becomes bitter over the years. He has experienced injustice for many years and this has had a toll on him. Troy has the power to future to look at the situation differently but falls into the victim roll. Foreshadowing from the first scene of the play Troy’s has arrogance toward death leads to his death in the last scene with a baseball bat in his hand. The play is based around Troy’s love for baseball and how characters compare it to life situations.
“Death ain’t nothing but a fastball on the outside corner”(1.1.82). Troy seeing his life as a baseball game compares a fastball to death. During Troy’s life he encounters an experience that supposedly brings him close to death. This may not actually be the case due to Troy’s practice at telling stories, but its importance is from the idea of a perfect pitch. Troy’s sees this perfect pitch as a homerun, showing the reader that Troy likes to bring drama to any situation. Troy being a former baseball player reverts to old ways when he was playing, he never made it to the big leagues and holds resentment. By never growing from his baseball years, he approaches every situation as if he is in a game. Troy introduces his tale early in the play giving the reader a chance to understand his character.
“You got to take the crookeds with the straights. That’s what Papa used to say”(2.5). Lyons makes this remark to Cory, the son of Troy at the play in Act 2. This is significant because this is Lyons can finally understand and relate to Troy. Lyons has a metal plate in his head and has disabilities which cause him to make poor dictions and go to jail numerous times. Troy kept paying of the judge to get him out of jail and there was a part in the play where he remarks saying that he didn’t care what happening to Lyons. Being his brother Troy and Lyons have tensions in their relationship and this when Lyons makes an important connection to Troy. By being able to see that they were both very similar in their life dictions which connect them. Though this is a sad moment in their relationship, Lyons sees that they have never accomplished their dreams. I interpret the quote meaning that even though there are good times and bad ones, one must take them both. I believe you cannot experience happiness without struggle because then there wouldn’t be any separation between the two. By being able to distinguish the two one can become a better person because we can learn to deal with it better.
“We’re not talking about baseball! We’re talking about you going off to lay in bed with another woman… ain’t talking about no baseball”(2.1.121). Rose finds out Troy’s affair with Alberta and becomes upset with Troy’s response to her. Troy doesn’t see cheating on Rose as a problem and only sees what he is doing as a game. The problem is that he isn’t playing in a baseball game anymore and he is affecting his family. Troy’s waists his eighteen years with a woman he has loved, only to get Alberta pregnant and she dies due to complications during the pregnancy. Troy feels no regret and sees Alberta as an accomplishment because he was able to “steal second”(2.1.118) while he was still married. While his wife Rose sees it as being selfish and not thinking of her or her feelings during his affair.
“They got lots of colored boys playing ball now. Baseball and football”(1.1.76-1.1.77). In the beginning of the novel the Troy’s wife, Rose and best friend, Bono and trying to convince that times have changed sense he played baseball. Their son Cory is trying to get recruited for football and Troy doesn’t believe he will be able to make a living to support himself being a black football player. This causes friction and tension between the couple because of their mixed views. Troy cannot get over his personal problems and drags him to his relationship with Cory. Instead of being supportive of his child, but pretends to be concerned, only being selfish from his experiences. Troy hates the thought of his children doing better than he ever did, being suppressed by the time he is in poverty. Cory resents him because Troy was in jail and was not there for his childhood, as a result Cory does not feel as though his father should have a say in his life.
“You [Cory] swung and you [Cory] missed. That’s strike one. Don’t you strike out!” (2.4.58). Cory does not believe that he did anything wrong by quitting his job and as a result of a football career. Troy believes that Cory will also be cheated and segregated from the whites. Only because Troy is being stubborn and this is his perception of what will happen to Cory. Troy doesn’t know how to describe his feelings and he uses a baseball reference to release his anger. The problem is that he still holds on this anger which is self destructive. Then Cory strikes out two times by protecting his mother. Troy refuses anything that is not his own opinion because of his own rejection from his opportunities turned down by baseball.
“If you going down…you going down swinging” ( 69). Troy tries to explain his life and diction making. This quotation shows how Troy is trying to justify his actions to Rose. He cannot get through to her using his baseball innuendos to make his actions seem less serious. Troy needs to look at Rose and apology for what he has done, but Troy sees his actions as laughable. He cannot take what he has done serious because he has hit a home run. This is his way of making up for the past this is his own reason to keep her in his life because she is a distraction from his life. He replaces baseball with Alberta, in the sense he feels “safe” when he is with her and creates a relationship based on hitting a home run. Putting his runs on the board is how he looks at winning in life instead taking a step away from his delusional life with Alberta.
“They got a lot of coloured baseball players now. Jackie Robinson was the first. Folks had to wait for Jackie Robinson” (10). Troy blaming another person for his failure, he is not capable of taking responsibility for his own problems. Thinking till the day of his death Troy was robbed of a life he could have died he cannot get over the fact that he will never get that life back. Jackie Robison is his scapegoat and wants to give the credit of being the first black baseball player, but his jealously takes him over. He talks about how Jackie wasn’t even a good ball player instead of looking why the major leagues picked him to the first man. It was because of Jackie’s strength and hitting record that one man when out on a whim and took him in.
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