August Wilson has been meticulous in preparing his audience for what lies in his play ‘Fences’ through the preface ‘The Setting’ and ‘The Play’. It is obvious he had taken nothing for granted especially his audience’s ignorance and his intention to address a wider audience. ‘The Setting’ re-creates the plight of African Americans’ living conditions during 1957.
In ‘The Play’ he educates his audience of the transition in the emerging changes in the lives of the African Americans and the opportunities ‘now’ available as opposed to the past. In ‘The Play’ there is a strong sense of resentment, anger, vengeance yet towards the end of the description an intense pride prevails in the African American identity. While the activities of the white people contributed to the building of America, the African-American share was completely ignored, let alone overwritten.
Though there is a stark comparison between Anglo-Americans and African-Americans where, every contribution of the white people brought glory to the country such as playing in the Major League or fighting for a nation to call it their own, Wilson in no way undermines the dignity of labor of the African-Americans given the brutal racially biased climate. Hence this paper seeks to establish that ‘The Setting’ and ‘The Play’ function as a thesis while the play ‘Fences’ is an argument in support of the thesis.
While the whites came from different parts of Europe to pursue their dream, the black people came from different states within the same country to escape oppression and to pursue a life of dignity. But unlike the white people, the black people were strangers in their own country. Gabriel also served in the army but there is no mention of African-American veterans or recognition of black soldiers’ participation. Instead symbolically, Gabriel is confined to an asylum for most part of life after he returns from war.
Troy on the other hand uses all the compensation to build his home and provide for his facilities. To make things worse for Gabriel, his brother, Troy signs a paper that he cannot understand and this makes Gabriel return to the asylum. During Troy’s funeral, Gabriel has lost his ability to play the sax, and starts dancing. With Troy the old exits making way for the new, but that was no reason for anyone to forget and take the new opportunities for granted.
‘Fences’ has many connotations, in terms of the racial difference in the society, the fence Rose wanted to build to keep her family close, the change in Lyons and Cory’s life in comparison to Maxson’s life, and the very name ‘Maxson’ in itself is a merging of Mason-Dixon line which marked the difference between slave states and free states. Depending on the characters and their experiences fences has various interpretations to it. The characters Bono and Troy represent disillusionment and gloom but Lyons and Cory represent hope and change.
This is the significance of the play being set in 1957. It was a moment for winds of change. Troy lives the rest of his life in disillusionment after he is rejected to be part of the Major League but his sons pursue their dreams because the world was changing, even for Troy. In Act 1, Bono complains that black people are reserved only for ‘lifting garbage’ and not permitted to drive trucks, but soon Troy is promoted to be a truck driver, which is a huge leap and a significant difference similar to Jackie Robinson being the first African-American to play in the Major League.
But Troy undermines his achievement because that is not what he wanted for his life. The transition is visible since most of the characters are within the family. When Lyons visits Troy to get a loan, he is confronted by his father insisting that he gets himself a job, but in retaliation Lyons throws back that since he was not around to raise him when he was growing up Troy had no right to discipline him. Troy is not affected by Lyons behavior since Lyons life, according to Troy resembled his own, a failure.
Also, Troy did not feel a responsibility towards Lyons but has a sense of obligation because he fathered him. But he does not feel the same way about Cory. Cory is a threat because there is a possibility that he will succeed where his father failed and that would have added misery to his pain. Every time he is confronted by his father or if Cory confronts Troy, Troy uses baseball terms such as ‘Strike one’ and ‘last strike’. Just like his relationship with his father, Cory also has a troublesome relationship with his father and gets a hold on his life only after he is thrown out.
Attempting to destroy Cory’s aspirations is a form of gratification for Troy, but success to the sons was not about convincing Troy, but doing what they wanted to do. Lyons continued with music indifferent to the outcome and so did Cory pursue his interest in being a football player. African-American women play a strong role, not even in comparison but as independent entities. The relationship between men and woman is more of a support system, where women are a source of strength, maternal security and foundation on which African-American culture boldly evolves.
When the environment starts to get stressful men either resort to violence as experienced by Rose in her former relationships, or abandon their families, or turn to ‘other’ women for ‘comfort’ since there are no strings attached. Rose is a stereotypical African-American woman who has had her share of miseries and challenges. However unlike Troy, she does not give up on her right to have what she had lost. She attempts to have a family for herself and insists Troy and Cory build the fence to keep her family close together.
Even when she finds out that Troy had cheated on her, she remains with him, and is willing to raise the child Troy had with Alberta. She can clearly assess and point out where the problem lies and what to do about it. She knows exactly how to punish Troy, and takes up the responsibility expecting nothing in return. She does not blame circumstances and situations for her misfortune, knowing full well she is part of the system that puts her into danger more vulnerable than Troy. To Rose, Raynelle is yet another chance of renewing her life since Cory is also thrown out of the house.
Rose lives on and adapts to the changes and with her strength as seen throughout the play, it is definite that she is not going to pass on her disappointments to her step-daughter. In conclusion, the coming of age play, ‘Fences’, author August Wilson closes the play on a positive note where ‘The Setting’ of 1957 changes towards the end because of the fence Rose wanted. The historical context provided in ‘The Play’ is elaborated through the clarified portrayal of how lives are changing for the better from one generation to another.
When the sons Lyons and Cory sing the songs their father had taught them, it signifies an old song with new spirit. Though Tory is dead, the past will live on through their song as a way to remind the transition from shackles to freedom, from disillusionment to hope and from despair to dignity. Works Cited http://www. gale. cengage. com/free_resources/bhm/bio/wilson_a. htm http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m2838/is_2_40/ai_n16818823/ http://theater. nytimes. com/mem/theater/treview. html? res=9b0de7de1f3df934a15750c0a961948260