Lives are lead with anxiety over certain issues and with apprehension towards certain events. This play, Fences written by the playwright August Wilson deals with the progression of a family through the struggles of oppression and the inability to obtain the American Dream. The characters in the play develop throughout the story and can be viewed or interpreted in many different ways, but one man remains constant during the play and that is Troy. Due to certain events that transpired as he was growing up, Troy is shaped into a very stubborn yet proud man.
To be a man who was black and proud ran the risk of getting destroyed, both physically and mentally. The world of the 1950s and 60s was rapidly changing and grew strange to Troy as he was living in a place that he understood less and less each day. Troy grows bitter through his misconceptions of the world and lives a life devoted to everything other than his family. As a result of racism Troy is unable to acquire his American Dream of becoming a baseball player, which results in his extreme bitterness that negatively impacts his family relationships and makes him deeply aware of his mortality.
Troy’s dreams are thwarted due to accounts of racism that occur in his life and he refuses to acknowledge that any racial progress has been made. Although he is constantly told he is too old to play baseball, Troy sees it in different way. To Troy ability has nothing to do with age, he believes the single reason for him not making it in the major leagues is racism. Troy’s longings to become a baseball player are obstructed by oppression and discrimination. Like many black athletes, Troy was not given the same opportunities as white people were, which strengthened his already adamant view toward the idea of one’s skill vs. he color of one’s skin “I’m talking about if you could play ball then they ought to have let you play.
Don’t care what color you were” (Wilson 18). Troy gets frustrated with the blatant racism that keeps him from playing in the Major Leagues. Troy feels as though he was robbed of a professional career in baseball strictly because of his race, the racial barrier constantly overshadows him and his family and has over time made him a bitter man. In an effort to help the reader understand Troy’s feelings toward his failure, Wilson writes as Troy “Don’t ome telling me I was too old. I Just wasn’t the right color” (Wilson 39). Although not specifically quoted by Troy, he has been worn down due to constant oppression and has been changed into a man whom he did not aspire to be like; his father. Troy’s animosity towards black people not getting equal opportunities as white people affects his ideals as a father and jeopardizes the future of his family. Troy’s story isn’t particularly special in this era, it was very common for racism and oppression to meddle and change peoples lives.
Not specific to baseball but in general life, many things were completely segregated as explained by Kim Pereira “Wilson used the fence and baseball to tell this story. It was not just a story of a life perceived as a failure, but a look into the minds and thoughts of an African American in the 1950’s” (Pereira 47). Very few people before the civil rights movements in the 1960’s were acting out against racism, and many black people accepted this and began to believe that they were in fact, the inferior race. Troy cannot see the clear racial progress that has been made since he played baseball.
As life progressed since Troy had faced oppression during his early years, he found it difficult to accept that things had changed. Troy’s racial arrogance is shown as he talks to Cory about baseball players not playing because of where they are from ““Got that boy… Puerto Rican boy… Clemente. Don’t even half-play him” “He gets lots of chances to play”” (Wilson 59). Troy clearly believes that people are still not given opportunities to play or excel in something because of the color of their skin, but Cory is denying this claim and states that that is not the case anymore and things have moved forward, at least in this instance.
The aspect of social change had opportunities to erupt during the 1950s; people were so set on their views, and much like Troy very few were willing to believe that there was change. Howard Shapiro analyzed this issue “It’s set in the late ‘50s in an American rapidly moving for an upheaval that will bring massive social change – change Troy Maxson either fails to see or cannot understand” (Shapiro) Troy’s reluctance to accept social change puts the future of his family at risk and stops Cory from progressing through life and out of the ghetto.
Troy is constantly exposed to racism and attempts to overcome it in everyday life. There are many instances throughout the book of black people, often working very hard to try and get an opportunity to make something of their lives. This opportunity that is searched for is constantly dismissed because of the underlining theme of racism. Troy isn’t one to stand up for himself, but does when he speaks to his boss about inequality in the work area “I went to Mr. Rad and asked him ‘why? Why you got white men’s driving and the colored man lifting? ” (Wilson 19) Troy’s frustration in dealing with racism and inequality everyday reflects his frustrations from being denied a career in baseball. Despite Troy’s efforts to work hard, he along with many others is not given a chance to change the lives of their families. Troy says that he works as hard as possible and receives nothing for it “I’m working every day and can’t get not credit” (Wilson 15) Troy is overlooked because of the color of their skin, and in being constantly discriminated against Troy’s future is limited.
Although there has been some racial progress by the 1950s, there are not any significant breakthroughs until the civil rights movement. Through the voice of Troy, Wilson describes and example of oppression where a “negro” walks into a restaurant and cannot get served, but when a white man walks in everybody drops what he or she is doing and rushes to the aid of the white man. Wilson references the Pope picking out the meat from the stew for the white man, saying that everybody will get down on his or her hands and knees to cater for that one man. An instance like this occurred very often and is made an example out of.
Troy displaces his relationships with Rose and Cory, who end up resenting him because of his ostracizing actions. As a result of being exposed to failure when growing up with his father, Troy seems to have adopted the idea that when things get difficult it is easier to just walk away. In doing so Troy unknowingly affects the lives of those around him. Troy ruins his marriage with Rose due to his never-ending need to escape responsibility. Troy does not have a sense of familial obligation and much like his father puts a lot of effort into getting away from his duties as a father.
He wants to get away from the pressures of family life and is driven towards another woman with whom he has an affair, and explains it as “She gives me a different idea…I can step out of this house and get away from the pressures and problems” (Wilson 68). Troy is forever reluctant to accept his responsibilities, he understands that he is a father but all that he associates with this role is providing money, as that is all anybody asks of him. Troy is very hypocritical in saying he is the man of the house, yet acting as far from it as possible.
In neglecting his family, Troy destroys his relationships with his wife, and children. As Kim Pereira analyses “Troy delays building the fence, as though fearful of the restrictions it will place on him. Something within him rebels against the idea of being cut off from the world, having no escape from the pressures of family life” (Pereira 49). It is evident that Troy is fearful of the symbolic meaning of the fence rather than the fence itself. Placing possible restrictions on him, Troy is reluctant to put it up; he feels it might force him to live a life devoted to his family, with no escape.
In marrying Troy, Rose took a huge gamble in putting all of her aspirations and dreams aside to live a family life, one devoted to her husband and children. When finding out that her husband has cheated on her Rose’s goals and possible futures were destroyed, she was betrayed by the man she invested in “I took all my feelings, my wants and needs, my dreams…and I buried them inside of you. I planted a seed and waited and prayed over it” (Wilson 45). Troy betrayed the trust of Rose, and not only cheated her but the family as well, any goals they had, are now shattered because of his selfishness.
Harold Bloom suggests that once Troy speaks to death following fights with loved ones he destroys his family “Troy stands alone on stage and speaks directly to death. These meetings follow confrontations, first with Rose and then with Cory, during which Troy manages to kill the love from those he loves the most” (Bloom). After Troy manages to “kill the love” he accepts death and acknowledges that it will eventually come. Troy shifts all of his attention to one aspect of his life and in doing so neglects and pushes away those who love him.
Cory takes umbrage against Troy, as a result of the restrictions that are placed upon him. Due to Troy’s failure in baseball he is diffident to let Cory play football in college. He faced racism in trying to become a professional athlete and fears the same fate for Cory “The white man ain’t gonna let you get nowhere with that football no way” (Wilson 78). Troy sees his time that he used to pursue a career in baseball was wasted and is now trying to avoid Cory from going through the same thing. In response to his own disappointment, Troy demands Cory to give up on his dream.
Troy believes that to be successful you have to work hard and that you earn where you get to, but believes that something interfered on his path to success. Troy thinks that life has never been fair to his family and never helped him out, it is just an obstruction “Life don’t owe you nothing” (Wilson 83). In his eyes somebody succeeding in life means that they think they are better than others, Troy begins to shows this characteristic when Cory has the opportunity to play college football and possibly make something of his life, as Kim Pereira explains “This seeming lack of affection is hard on Cory who obviously worships his father.
But every attempt to emulate Troy is met with disapproval, and slowly, their lives begin to revolve in concentric circles – beginning at the same center, destined to describe similar patterns” (Pereira 44). Despite Cory wanting a relationship with his father, Troy is hesitant to show any affection toward his own son because of his pride.