Fences is an American play that was created by August Wilson in 1985. The storyline in the play was set in the 1950s. The play focuses to explore the changes, growth, and evolution of African Americans. The play was set in Pittsburgh and explores an African American family that existed during the period of segregation. With this, the play makes it possible for the inner life of African Americans to be understood when power was in the hands of the whites. The play is more concerned with giving us an image of how racism affected the daily lives of the characters involved (August and Scott). The analysis of this play involves looking at the summary of the play and the various aspects of the play such as the themes, characterization, literary devices and the message to the audience.
In summary, the play is about a garbage collector whose name is Troy and his family. The family is African American. The play is made up of two acts; the first scene has four scenes while the second one has five. In the first act, Troy is asking his boss why blacks cannot be allowed to drive the garbage trucks. It is this in this act that Troy and his son Cory argue due to the fact that Troy told Cory’s coach that Cory might not end up playing football. The first act of the play ends in scene four where Troy wins the case and is given the chance to drive the garbage truck. He is the first African American to be a driver in the sanitation company that he works for. Act two of the play begins where Troy helps to bail his brother Gabriel of the prison. It is in this act that Troy also opens up to his wife about his extramarital affair and the illegitimate daughter Raynell who resulted from the affair. Scene five of act two ends with the death of Troy which was a result of a heart attack. Gabriel who had been taken to a mental health center returns and shows up at the funeral f his brother Troy (Nadel).
The main theme pointed out in the play is that of conflict. In every scene of the play, there is at least conflict between the various characters in the play. Troy, one of the major characters in the play has a conflict with his son. Troy’s conflict arises from the fact that he was brought up in an environment where the African American had few opportunities and as a result of this, Troy developed the mentality that as African American, he always has to struggle in order for him to survive. The conflict, therefore, comes in from the fact that he wants his family to believe in his beliefs regarding the position of the African American people in society (Shamal). He wants every member of his family to look at life from his point of view. Cory, Troy’s son, on the other hand, has an exactly opposite view of life. He feels that African Americans have more opportunities. This brings about a strained relationship between father and son. It is also worth noting that Troy views the optimistic nature of his son to be heading nowhere which is also another source of conflict in the play (Nadel). Troy lives in a society which he does not trust at all which does not only affect him but his relationship with his family.
Another conflict in the play comes in from the relationship between Troy and his wife Rose. When Troy gets out of prison, Rose is the most understanding and cooperative person in his life. This, however, changes into something else when Rose learned that Troy had been fathering another child from his secret partner. Raynell, Troy’s son from this secret affair brings conflict between husband and wife. When Raynell’s mother passed away and Troy requested Rose to take care of him, the conflict gets to another level (August and Richards). The perfect relationship that existed between Troy and Rose is ruined when Raynell came into the picture.
Another major theme that arises from the play is that of racism. The play is able to point out to the idea of racism from the beginning of Troy’s childhood. Troy was a good baseball player but the fact that he was of color affected his access to the opportunity to grow into a baseball star. With this memory, Troy discourages his son Cory that his football dreams might not take him anywhere. He forces his son to look at themselves as people of color who are naturally segregated from accessing all the opportunities that the whites have (Nadel). From Troy’s perspective of life, it is clear that growing up as an African American during his time only caused him suffering and pain and that is why he wanted to prepare his son for the reality of life.
The use of characters is another important property in the play. Troy Maxson is the main character in the play. He is African American who lost his dream to become a star in baseball as the major leagues had not accepted African Americans to take part during his time. He is the head of his family and works in a sanitation company in order to provide for his family. All the other relationships in the play rotate around Troy as the protagonist in the story. Rose is the wife of Troy. Troy has three sons who are Lyons, Cory and Raynell. From the play, it is clear that Troy failed several to provide the support that his kids needed from him; he was also inconsiderate to his wife. Cory is an ambitious person who believes he has a chance to pursue his dreams in football. He is a person with compassion and that is why he respects his parents Rose and Troy together with his disabled uncle Gabriel (Shamal). Rose is a very supportive wife in the play despite being a housewife. She is determined to keep her son Cory and his husband closer to her and goes further to encourage his son. She does not hold on to the past like her husband Troy. Her good heart makes her accept the illegitimate child of his husband into the family. Gabriel Maxson is Troy’s brother who feels like he is more of an angel than a person. With this, he spends most of his time singing. Gabriel was involved in an accident while he was a soldier in World War II and therefore remained physically challenged. Jim Bono is another important character in the play. Bono is Troy’s friend, they work together.