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The Play “Fences” by August Wilson

August Wilson was born to a German father and an African American Mother in 1945. This concludes that Wilson is of a lesser race compared to other children in the school. Due to his racial color, his school professor could not believe he could write a sophisticated paper and accused him of plagiarism, got suspended out of school, and could not be re-admitted. This made him drop out of school but did not mean the end of his education. He joined a local library and read everything he could find, just to be educated like the other children. The events of his childhood made him join the black power movement and wrote short stories, plays, and poetry about the black experience in the United States for every decade. One of the plays, “Fences,” explains the predicaments black people underwent in the 1950s. The play Fences is divided into two sections. In one section, Wilson a tragic incident that happens to one of the characters, Troy Maxson, opens the way for other black people to experience opportunities they never had to experience. He explains that black people never got a chance to harvest from their sweat and talents. Wilson uses past history to try to explain a situation and better the lives of black people.

Troy’s last name, Maxson, was originally generated in the 1820s, illustrated the separation that existed between the slave States and free States. This character represents a combination of Troy’s life’s history in the south and the north that are inevitably linked. In the play, blacks like Aaron proved they could challenge white players in their own game and even be the future leaders of the professional league. Therefore Wilson portrays history throughout his playthrough character experience. Wilson’s plays, including Fences, takes place in Pittsburg, a place where Troy and other people of the black generation fled from the slavery conditions of the south. After Reconstruction failed, black people fled to the North to become urban citizens.

Many of the North immigrants, black people for that matter like Bono and Troy, had no form of resource or infrastructure to help them survive in the new neighborhood, so they had to device new survival methods like stealing, jail, and living in the shacks. This play draws a clear line between the duration to which black people were freed from slavery to a large number of people in our jails, the low-income occupants in his argument of the majority of black homeless people, and the resource-less group that was freed into a competitive and financed society that had a hard time surviving lawfully. Wilson portrays the 1950s in his play to be the time when a new world of freedom and opportunity opened for black people and leaving the people who grew up before the 1950s like Bono feels like strangers in the current life. It’s the development of black people’s experiences that makes the biography, so when the author play divert to narration experiences (Wilson (a) scene 1).

Biographical facts changed when the author diverted his play to characters daily life activities in enriching the play. The play moves from slavery to free world where black people were able to voice up complains to white people. Troy and Bono’s responsibilities were working as garbage collectors while white people drove the garbage trucks and they were even able to complain to the labor union of their working conditions, and they were not even afraid of getting fired. The author started dwelling on characters experiences when he critically analyzed each characters life. Bono is accusing Troy of having an affair with Alberta, a woman who frequents the bar often besides being married to Rose. The conversational goes on when Rose lamented that Cory, their son, was recruited by a college football team. Historically we see that black people were never accepted in the Major Leagues, and Troy could only make it to the Negro league therefore he does not want Cory to play. Biography facts has changed as earlier black players were not allowed in the league as they do today. This does not seem to help much, Troy always dreamt of playing in the major league, but when his son got chance, he could not let him (Act one scene one).

In the development of the pay, Wilson introduces many characters to create the sense that time has changed. He gathers information from Troy and Bono conversation to enrich the play. In Act one, scene one, Wilson introduces us to critical of dreams and hopes of the characters. Rose is criticized by Troy in her hobbies of playing numbers. Troy seems concerned about Rose’s characters but provides us evidence of selfish treatment of Rose by Troy.

They later argue about numbers which shows Troy’s sensitivity to Rose’s needs. This shows that Troy is concerned about his own survival and less about other people’s needs, a technique he learnt from the slavery days that helped him learn to cope. The author uses this experience to us that slavery can make someone rebellious, as a survival technique. The pain they were going through in the South as slaves was so intense and the majority of them learnt to survive (Wilson (b)Act one scene one).

The insights we acquire from Wilson’s play is that black people after slavery were used to the old lives and could not take a step and live up to the society’s expectations after they were freed. Troy is reluctant about his son Troy joining the league of which he will be awarded a college scholarship, and this causes their relationship to succumb. Troy has taken up responsibility by insuring his job at the A&P after football practice and even gets good grades at school. His father does not acknowledge the efforts Cory is putting to better his life but instead sees him as a failure because he wants him to live up to his expectations.

In another heated debate, Troy and Cory argue about the purchasing of television and having a new roof. Troy in his stubborn character, takes his side of purchasing the television set either than listening to his son’s idea. This shows that Troy totally ignores every ones dreams and dwells on his own. Later Cory’s persistence over Television purchase affects Troy and offers Cory a fair deal by offering to pay half of the set. By letting Cory come up with half of the money, Troy teaches his son responsibility by encouraging work ethic at the same time support his son realize his dream of acquiring a television. This character shows that black people can work as well and acquire property without having to steal and going to jail as the beginning of the chapter had portrayed. Cory being able to get work that could afford him a television set shows responsibility and hard work that black people were known for but denied equal opportunities in the society (Wilson (b) Act one scene two) (Wilson (c) 150).

Another insight is where Troy discourages Cory in playing in baseball team. He uses his past experiences to deny his son opportunities in life. The author tries to show tell us that we should stop clinging to our past lives and move on as opportunities are passing by as we watch. Cory explains to his father that the world has changed since he was a ballplayer, and he should let him live his dream. This argument shows that Troy is irrational and lacks substance. Troy insists that Cory and his black team mates are only in the team as tokens. Cory sees the present times to be changing and accepting more talented black people in the league, a dream they have all been fighting for, but Troy does not see much of a change, he sees the present as the mirror of his hardest past disappointments. He is unwilling to change his perception with time as a result, he refuses to see the college recruiter coming to as for his permission to recruit his son for college football. The two characters Troy and Cory show the interpretation of changing history. In the past, black people were not allowed in the major leagues as they do today, but Troy clinging to the past is affecting the change they all anticipated for. Letting his son Cory join the football team will be able to land him a scholarship to college and later get a good job that will earn him equal status in the society. Isn’t that what they all wanted? (Wilson (b) Act one scene four) (Garret 196).

Troy’s character seems to improve towards the end of the play. He has or once accepted his responsibilities by taking home his motherless baby, Raynell, but he still does not believe in change. He sings to his baby about a man begging a train engineer a free ride. This shows that he does not believe in the present times where people go to work, earn a living and pay for their rides. Rose walks in and decides that the baby is innocent and shouldn’t be blamed for Troy’s sins, saying, “you can visit the sins of the father upon the child this child got a mother, but you’re a womanless man”. Wilson choice of using a song on life experience showcases the African-American literature of oral tradition, and the use of train signifies life changing experiences. The train also signifies religious connotation in reference to Rose’s comments on Troy’s song to the baby. She shows by understanding that the baby is innocent and was born out of the sinful partnership. She rejects Troy as her partner because of his sinful deeds, she takes seriously the biblical command that explains, “Thou shalt Not Sin” but forgives the child as she was born out of sinful acts because she believes that “When the sins of our fathers visit us/we don’t have to play host/we can banish then with forgiveness/as God in his largeness and laws” (Wilson (b) Act two scene four) (Wilson & Lloyd 80).

In conclusion, its time we moved from our past and dwelt in our present. Troy continues to live in his past, scarifying the happiness of his loved ones for the sake of his own. He could not let his son Cory participate in the football league for fear of racial discrimination of his past predicaments. We should all embrace the past and move and move on history served its purpose. Troy is stuck in the past, and he can not let his son realize his dream of playing football just because he could not make it in his old days. They fought for change, equal opportunities for all, and they should not let the opportunity pass by.

Works Cited

Garret, Sandra., S. Wilson August Fences: A reference guide. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003.

Wilson, August (a). Fences Study Guide. Web.

Wilson, August (b).. Fences. Web.

Wilson, August (c). Fences. Penguin,1998.

Wilson, August & Lloyd, Richards. Fences: A play. Penguin, 1986.

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"The Play “Fences” by August Wilson." StudyKraken, 20 Nov. 2021,

1. StudyKraken. "The Play “Fences” by August Wilson." November 20, 2021.


StudyKraken. "The Play “Fences” by August Wilson." November 20, 2021.


StudyKraken. 2021. "The Play “Fences” by August Wilson." November 20, 2021.


StudyKraken. (2021) 'The Play “Fences” by August Wilson'. 20 November.

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