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Fences – Tragic Hero Essay

In August Wilson’s play “Fences”, he presents a misguided yet accomplished character. The play’s protagonist Troy, creates conflict with every character because of his judgmental nature and contrived haughty perception of himself. Through numerous stories that he re-cants Troy embellishes his experiences to cast himself in a righteous light. Contrary, to the stories he tells, his behavior expose Troy as a foolish man that does irrational things. One moment he is lecturing his family members on how they ought to live their lives and the next he’s off frolicking like a child with no cares or responsibilities. Aside, from his hypocrisies Troy managed to become a talented professional baseball player. As a member of the Negro Baseball League (NBL), Troy was a pioneer and hero of his time. The men associated with the NBL endured the ignorance and hostility of many to advance the footprint of black Americans in professional avenues. Sadly, Troy’s time in a groundbreaking career and stable, loving household are overshadowed by the demons he tries to ignore. He struggles to accept the harsh realities of his life and the decisions that he’s made, leaving him to live within the confines of bitterness and denial. It is evident that life has made Troy a bitter man. He was once a talented young baseball player at the height of his career.

However, when Major League Baseball began to integrate Troy was too old to become a member. That reality weighed resentfully with him, and influenced many of his relationships, in particular with his son, Cory. His son plays football and aspires to professionally some day. He has the opportunity to go to college on a football scholarship, but Troy won’t allow it and refuses to sign the papers to permit Cory to do so. Troy scoffs that “ain’t no need for nobody coming around here to talk to me about signing nothing… The white man ain’t gonna let you get nowhere with that football no way” (Wilson 35). Troy’s comments are a direct reflection of his own shattered dreams. Holding Cory back from living to the full potential of his dream illustrates Troy’s pessimism and envy. He stands in an ideal position to encourage and mentor his son, but sadly, he doesn’t have the fortitude to do so. Troy’s wife Rose is another character who comes into conflict with Troy because of his bitterness and irrational decisions. Rose is a faithful, compassionate and realistic wife. While she loves her family, she recognizes that there is a disconnect. So she asks Troy, with the help of his sons, one of whom she did not bear to build a fence in their back yard. She hopes that the time will be well spent together and the fence will stand as a symbol of the their unity. However, Troy seeks sanctuary through external means, being alcohol and another woman.

Against the cautioning of his friend Bono, “she loves you Troy, Rose loves you” (Wilson 36), Troy maintains a relationship with a woman named Alberta. Alberta goes on to become pregnant by Troy, and sadly, dies in childbirth. With such discord within her marriage, somehow Rose manages to find the compassion to raise Troy’s illigetimate child. Although Troy had the opportunity to emotionally support his caring wife, and build a fence with his sons, he could not escape his own need for external validation correlating back to his time as a professional athlete. Troy is a tragic-hero who is unable to enjoy the fruit that his life bore him. He failed to provide the love and support that would mean the most to his loved ones. He was unable to relish in his time spent playing for the NBL, and encourage his son to follow his dream because Troy’s dream ended prematurely. Troy is also unable to appreciate the love of his wife because of the external adoration he’d grown to know and desire from others. When his professional career ended he became bitter and began a cycle of irrational decisions because of his depressed outlook.

Work Cited
Wilson, August Fences Literature : an introduction to fiction , poetry, drama and writing. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Diana Gioia, 12th ed. New York: Pearson, 2013 1153-63

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