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Fences is a play written by August Wilson, an American playwright, in 1983. The play explores experiences of black Americans during the 1950s concerning racial discriminations that dominated the society. The play focuses on the life of Troy, the main character, a family man who is 53 years old.
His wife, Rose, and his son, Cory, rely on him in every aspect of their life. In the play, Troy struggles to provide for his family by performing menial jobs. During his youthful period, Troy was a baseball player, but he did not manage to reap most out of his talent because racial discrimination denied him the opportunity to play major leagues in baseball. According to Wilson, Troy differs from his son when he denies him a chance to play in school football (37).
In the play, Troy works as a garbage man, and later manages to work as a truck driver after a series of struggles because racial discrimination restrains black men from working as drivers. Troy has an affair with Alberta, so they have a daughter, Raynell. Unfortunately, Alberta dies during delivery. In this view, this essay seeks to explain psychological freedom and self-determination as exhibited in the play by depicting how Wilson’s life experiences influenced the development of the play.
Psychological Freedom and Self-Determination
The play, Fences, reflects struggles that August Wilson encountered in his life. Since his father left him, his mother and stepfather assume the responsibility of raising and providing him with essential education that he needs. However, August Wilson did not continue with his education because “he was accused of plagiarism at school when he wrote sophisticated paper, which the administration did not believe he could write” (Wilson 2).
The school administration suspends and denies him a chance to continue with his studies. Despite the suspension, August Wilson exhibits self-determination by going to the local library where he studies on his own. After reading extensively, he manages to gain literary skills that help him venture into play writing.
During his childhood, August Wilson is determined to become an author, but his mother dreams to see him as an attorney. Given that August Wilson refuses to comply with his mother’s demands, she compels him to move out of their home and join the United States Army.
The self-determination and freedom of choice make August Wilson pursue his own dream. Although his mother has a strong influence on his life, August Wilson manages to overcome it when he decides to go against her wishes. Burbank highlights, “Wilson’s artistic and political efforts overlap as attempts to elaborate the identity of descendants of slaves; to restore agency to a population otherwise collectively reduced to a trope” (122).
Wilson’s experience relates to the experience of Cory and his father Troy in the play. Troy denies his son to take part in the football because he believes that racism may hinder Cory’s performance and progress as it did to him years ago. Hence, the experience of family pressure on career development, as the play exhibits, relates to the experiences of August Wilson.
Given that August Wilson experiences racial discrimination against black Americans, he employs his literary skills in fighting racism. Burbank argues, “Wilson’s work revealed Black Americans to be forcibly infused aliens, shaping their destiny as best they could within a strange culture” (117).
Experiences in racism and self-determination prompt Wilson to join black power movement to fight for the rights of the black Americans. In his literary articles and books, August Wilson focuses on the experiences of the black as most of his works illustrate. The play even deals with experiences of the black; hence, it means that his historical experiences are central in development of the play.
In the play, Troy reveals his irritation when he questions why the black employees are unable to work as garbage truck drivers. He observes that the white employers undermine black employees because blacks have a chance to work only as garbage collectors.
Discrimination against the blacks makes Troy feel inferior as a black. In his experiences and struggles, Troy sees the importance of fighting for self-determination and refuses to submit to inferior status, thus enabling him to secure a job as a truck driver in the city. According to Wilson, Troy “has been given promotion that will make him the first black garbage truck driver in the city” (34). Through determination, this promotion makes Troy overcome racism and feel superior.
Although he has a wife, Troy has a clandestine affair with another woman. The affair results in Alberta becoming pregnant. Unfortunately, she dies during delivery. Troy decides to take the child, Raynell, and raise him with his wife. He is not sure if his wife will accept to take care of the baby.
Fortunately, he convinces his wife to take care of the child, as a stepmother. According to Wilson, “Rose takes in Raynell as her own child, but refuses to be dutiful as Troy’s wife,” (63). Therefore, Troy exhibits self-determination as he succeeds in making his wife accept his affair with Alberta and convince her to take care of the kid. In spite of issues in his family, Troy is self-determined because he tries to solve them.
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Cory, the son of Troy and Rose, plays football in the school team. His father is jealous of him and goes ahead to stop him from participating in the football league by telling the coach not to allow Cory to participate in the game. In spite of attempts by his father to prevent him from playing football, persistence gives Cory the impetus to continue with his career in the football club.
Wilson states that being unable to deter Cory, “Troy warns Cory that his insubordination is a strike against him” (44). Troy extends his evil deeds by fighting Cory and ensures that he sends him out of the house on allegations that Cory must be self-reliant. Through his determination, Cory secures a job in the military and comes home to attend Troy’s funeral. Hence, self-determination and freedom enable Cory to pursue his dreams despite his father’s influence.
Fences is a play that illustrates the life of Troy, the main character of the play in terms of experiences that he undergoes in a racist society that is full of struggles. The play exhibits determination that Troy employs as he faces numerous challenges in life that prompt him to endure and continue pursuing his dreams.
Moreover, the play is a reflection of life’s experiences of the writer, August Wilson, because the main character shares common experiences with the writer. Comparatively, both Troy and August Wilson differ from their parents regarding their careers, thus prompting them to enter into military. Therefore, the play does not only provide experiences of the blacks but also reflects life’s experiences of August Wilson. Apparently, no barrier can withstand self-determination, as explored in Fences.
Burbank, Surgei. “The shattered mirror: what August Wilson means and willed to mean.” College Literature 36.2 (2009): 117-129. EBSCOhost. Web.
Wilson, August. Fences: A Play. New York: Plume, 1986. Print.