Everything in the life of Troy Maxson is a big frustration for him. And Troy is completely disheartened that everything and everyone about him is unfair, unjust and untenable. With his bosom friend, Jim Bono, they lament during their weekend drinking binge that they are trapped in an unfair employment practice. They resent that they are being discriminated upon as black men and should just be contained to lifting garbage and could not drive garbage trucks. The labor group had to sue their supervisor for such discriminatory acts.
Troy is married to Rose and they have a son, Cory Maxson. The father and son are in constant odds with each other. The traumatic experience of Troy during his younger years due to being discriminated upon in the major league – made him resent that his son Cory has the opportunity to be recruited to the college football team. Because of this opportunity with the league, Cory has to give up his job with the grocers as he has to try out for the season games. Troy strongly prohibits Cory to do so and told him to go back to his job with the grocers.
Troy and Cory fight over this and Cory disobeyed his father to pursue his dreams. Lyons Maxson is the elder son of Troy from another woman. Lyons pursues his interest in music that does not give him proper provisions and therefore stays dependent on his father for his needs and for money. To this Troy is also frustrated about. Gabriel Maxson is the brother of Troy who is mentally incapacitated due to the mortal head wounds he suffered during World War II. The burdensome care for the insanity of his brother adds to the frustration of Troy.
However, the interesting paradox is that Troy has use for Gabriel’s incapacity. Being the caretaker of Gabriel, Troy is the beneficiary of the pension of Gabriel from the army. Such money Troy uses to build his house. Troy Maxson therefore has bee in constant pursuit to be alleviated from the curse of failure, of discrimination, prejudice, of inequality. “Fences” is completely and comprehensively the story of Troy Maxon and his struggles – with his family, with himself, with his confusion in life, with his job, with his society. In dire need to be emancipated from the most traumatic
And because of his confusion and frustration, he cheated and took for granted the one and only semblance of sanity and sincerity in his life – his wife Rose. Troy carried an affair with Alberta and their affair brought forth a child. However, Alberta died during childbirth. Troy eventually took Baby Raynell and begged Rose to stand as mother for the posthumous child. Because of the inert goodness on Rose, she took pity on the child and took care of her. The penultimate struggle in the story is the dragging and mind boggling delay in mending and putting up of the fence of the Maxson house.
Rose struggles between Troy and Lyons and Cory to work together for once and for all to finish the fence. But all of the men in the life of Rose are preoccupied with their dreams, shattered dreams, near dreams, illusive dreams, false dreams, reachable dreams. And what is being sacrificed is the true harmony and unity of the Maxson family. Until finally Troy dies of heart attack and it was only there and then that Lyon and Cory finished the fence. The Symbolism The gnawing and complicated relationship of Troy with Rose, Lyons, Gabriel and Cory is the spring board of what the story portrays and symbolizes.
Troy’s resentment about his failures makes him obstinate about the possibility of change of fate, if not for him, for his sons. Troy is perpetually a walking conflict with himself. As part of the generation in Southern America that went through the ordeal of slavery, Troy Maxson struggles to get past the trauma and disappointments. Travelling to the north full of hope to find a better life, Troy had a chance as a ball player but age defied him further glory in the major league and he ends up being a garbage man.
This Troy attributes to a society that is unfair and unjust. “While African Americans who migrated north found greater political, social, and economic opportunities than they had in the South, the North did not fulfill its potential as a ‘promised land’. Blacks remained the last hired and first fired, disproportionately relegated to low-skilled and poorly paying jobs” (Levy, 1998, page 5) This made Troy conclude a dead end to the struggle for opportunity. But Lyons and Cory think otherwise. They have a definite plan and vision for their lives and future.
To which Troy does not believe to be tenable because of discrimination and inequality abounds. Thus what psychologically holds Troy back is what he wants his sons to likewise be wary about. As African-Americans still struggling through civil rights in an industrial city, Troy is therefore at the same time resentful and defensive about their lives, especially that his sons are headstrong in pursuing their dreams. It is the trauma of racism and discrimination that haunts Troy. “My theory or conception of racism, therefore, has two components: difference and power.
It originates from a mindset that regards ‘them’ as different from ‘us’ in ways that are permanent and unbridgeable. ” (Fredrickson, 1992, page 9) It should be further considered that Troy had a damaged and shattered relationship with his father – where all the resentment of slavery produced all the bitterness that Troy grew up with – their relationship did not nurture in Troy anything positive about human interaction. So Troy tried to make something positive rise above everything that is negative about him.
The barriers that Troy consider himself in and as he compounds to everyone around him, are reflected in the struggle he went through being badly beaten by his father; his running away; his shining moment in the league; then eventually being rejected; his going to jail; then his ending up with a very menial job as garbage man. Lyons having grown up with his mother while Troy serves time in jail, gave him the impression that he can make decisions by himself. With the absence of Troy, Lyons grew up believing that he learned life his way.
Nevertheless, Lyons believe that his father should still stand by him while he pursues his dream of being a musician. Lyons might depend on Troy for money, but he eventually returns the money he borrows. This means that inspite of the difficulty of his growing up years, he still wants to stay connected to his father. Cory stands by his conviction of making it big in college football even though he knows that it is a painful defiance to what his father strongly believes: that the arena sports will not treat him equally because he is black.
Cory insists that the times will be different and the merits of his being an effective athlete will stand as the one and only measure that will lead him to success. Between Troy and his sons, therefore, the criss-crossing of identities transpire. They would like to make the most of whatever is positive in them and what is positive out there. Yet, the converse reality of the pain they are burdened with; the reality of social inequality; the reality of their conflicting perceptions – challenges them to rise above the occasion. The Parallelism
The past of Troy Maxson is the sole parallelism that the story of Fences revolved with. The experience of Troy in the leagues made him believe that Cory would be better off to concentrate on his studies and the job with the grocers. This Troy believes is a more realistic and result oriented conduct of his life But Cory believes the times have changed from the discrepancies of the past of his father. He has seen proof that professional sports has a different perspective of the future. Cory says in Scene 3 of Act 1: “The Braves got Hank Aaron and Wes Covington.
Hank Aaron hit two home runs today. That makes forty-three”. History has proven that the achievement of African Americans in the athletics stood as a paramount testimony to the changes that equal opportunities brought forth in the United States. “While Joe Louis and Jese Ownes were becoming national heroes….. the victories they wonint he boxing ring and around the track oval registered important triumps over white supremacy and the prevailing doctrine of Negro inferiority. ” (Miller, Steffen, Schafer, 2001, page 22)
Troy snaps at this rationalization of Cory by declaring that Aaron is a nobody. It is because Troy could never take to heart that opportunities can become different because it hurts him that his opportunity did not bid him well. So, between Troy and Cory, their respective history is actually a parallel to their conviction of how the world is really is. This created the conflict and the distance between Troy and Cory. In the eyes of Troy, he was obedient to his father and did his responsibilities. In parallel, Troy expects Cory to do the same – and so with Lyons.
In the eyes of Troy, he is just saving his sons from the heartaches of being subjected to the mercy of the “powerful whites” that will abound in their chosen endeavors. The parallel is that as he seems to be protective, Troy is destroying the potentials and opportunities of the determination and conviction of Cory and Lyons. Between Troy and Rose, their lives and choices run parallel to how they wanted to resolve their past. Troy has this illusion that he has won a battle with Death, through a physical wrestling much.
In parallel, Rose corrects his illusions by reminding Troy that it was actually Troy’s battling pneumonia his success to get well. But Troy insists on his story. Everytime Troy brags about his story of winning over death, Rose simply says, like in Scene 1 of Act 1: “Troy lying”. If Troy has illusions about his overcoming death, Rose in parallel has an illusion that his hopes and success will come his winning the numbers game. And to this Troy gives back to Rose his cynicism in Scene 2, Act 1 when he tells Rose: “You ain’t doing nothing but throwing your money away.
” As Troy persists on his right and ability to dream and have illusions, his family likewise persists in their right and ability to dream and have illusions. The Paradox Over and above all that transpired in the story is the extreme paradox and necessity of the fence of the Maxson house that need to be fixed. Troy, Lyons, Cory, Gabriel and Rose are all struggling with their dreams, their realities, their conflict, their symbolisms and their parallelism and yet a simple hard core necessity such as the fence of their house has been taken for granted.
And the extension of such character of taking things for granted was the paradox to Troy’s high strung idealism of resentments: which is his lesser than commendable indiscretion and injustice to the goodness of his wife. Troy, upon his admitting to Rose his affair with Alberta, rationalizes in Scene 1, Act 2 that being with Alberta gives him a sense of accomplishment and relief from responsibility and he says: “Then when I saw that gal, I got to thinking that if I tried, I just might be able to steal second”.
And yet, inspite of the pain that this infidelity brought to Rose, she took heart and accepted Raynell, the daughter of Troy and Alberta – whose birth caused the death of Alberta. The paradox of the reality of being cheated upon and the reality of doing good to an innocent infant is the exemplification of the possibilities of equality and justice and fairness to come about. Finally, the death by heart attack of Troy is the ultimate paradox that moved his family to finally finish putting up the fence. Wilson, August. “Fences”. 1 June 1986 Plume Publishing
Levy, Peter B. “The Civil Rights Movement”. 1998 Greenwood Publishing Group Fredrickson, George M. “Racism: A Short History”. 2002 Princeton University Press Miller, Patrick B; Steffen, Theree Frey; Schafer-Wunshe, Elisabeth. “The Civil Rights Movement Revisited: Critical Perspectives on the Struggle for Racial Equality in the United States”. 2001 LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Munster Morton, Eric (2002). “Race And Racism In The Works Of David Hume. ” Journal on African Philosophy: 1, 1 http://www. africanphilosophy. com/vol1. 1/morton. html
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