Fences by August Wilson: Is August Wilson's Life and Beliefs Reflected in the Characters in Fences?
The award winning play Fences is not just a work of fiction from the mind of August Wilson, but rather it is the reflections of a middle-aged man on his adolescent years. The majority of characters, places, and events are mirrored after real-life people, places, and history from Pittsburgh where Wilson grew up. Rather than creating a whole new world and characters for his third play, August Wilson infused his own personal childhood to form a story that could be related to by viewers and readers alike. Whether a Wilson consciously replicated elements of his history or not, the success of Fences, is due to the audience 's ability to relate to the characters and the circumstances of their lives. August Wilson was born on April 27, 1945 in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Arguably August Wilson's most renowned work, "Fences" explores the life and relationships of the Maxson family. This moving drama was written in 1983 and earned Wilson his first Pulitzer Prize. "Fences" is part of August Wilson's "Pittsburg Cycle," a collection of ten plays. Each drama explores a different decade in the 20th century, and each examines the lives and struggles of African-Americans. The protagonist, Troy Maxson is a restless trash-collector and former baseball athlete. Though deeply flawed, he represents the struggle for justice and fair treatment during the 1950s. Troy also represents human nature's reluctance to recognize and accept social change. In the playwright's setting description, symbols connected to his character can be found: the house, the incomplete fence, the porch, and the makeshift baseball tied to a tree branch. The set description provides several clues to the heart of Troy Maxson's character. "Fences" takes place in the front yard of Troy's "ancient two-story brick house." The house is a source of both pride and shame for Troy. He is proud to provide a home for his family. He is also ashamed because he realizes that the only way he could afford the house is through his brother (a mentally unstable WWII veteran) and the disability checks he receives because of it. According to the playwright's description, "the wooden porch is badly in need of paint." Why does it need paint? Well, in practical terms, the porch is a recent addition to the house. Therefore, it could simply be seen as a task not quite finished. However, the porch is not the only thing in dire need of attention. Troy's wife of eighteen years, Rose, has also been neglected. Troy has spent time and energy on both his wife and the porch. However, Troy ultimately does not commit to his marriage nor to the unpainted, unfinished porch, leaving each to the mercy of the elements.
While she attempts to safeguard her family, Troy is betraying through having relationship with different women as his manner to attain free will. This issue surprised Rose: “You should have stayed in my bed, Troy… You should have held me tight. You should have grabbed me and hold on.” (Wilson 1333). She is curious about Troy’s faithfulness as her spouse and his compliance to maintain their marriage in a positive path. The goods moods and close relations among a mother and children as well may be observed in the family of the author. Wilson and his brothers and sisters took their mother as their role model, whereas their father was mainly not there during their early age. Their mother was the person who showed them the benefit of possessing stable sense of satisfaction and zero tolerance for impartiality. In Fences, Wilson attempted to describe the experiences of women in the past societies through introducing or using Rose, he employed her character as his device to portray how difficult the life of Black American is. Her disappointment in attaining her dream to have a successful marriage and her intention to dedicate her life greatly on her parenthood’s side, looks like the life of some African American mothers. His mother, who was unsuccessful in trying to have the best family during her initial marriage, along with her achievement in improving her children’s status, are his devices to direct his reader to understand effectively about the past of African American females. From the analysis of Fences, it can be deduced that the author is conscious of the status of African-American who are near him and he made his play derived from such facts (Bogumi 34), therefore Wilson employed the characters like Rose to pass a point to the African American women to consider their ambitions and even, to add more efforts to attain their goals, even though their goals are still nearly linked to the concepts satisfying their responsibilities as the core provider of the family.
As shown above, although the conflicts mentioned above could be seen as major there is a conflict that I believe is significant but not as major. This conflict is between Troy and his best friend Bono. Bono and Troy met while Troy was in jail and was there during Troy’s baseball days. Although Bono admired Troy’s sense of responsibility and leadership Bono quickly began to change his feelings and became concerned with Troy’s marriage. Bono and Troy bump heads on the issue of infidelity and I think Bono’s morals and thoughts about loyalty put a wedge between his friendship with Troy. Towards the end of the book Bono stopped coming around and became distant towards Troy. What Bono admired about Troy came to be the reason he became distant. I would consider Bono to be functional kin to Troy which is defined as ‘non-biological related family members who have been designated as kin”.
Bogumi, Maryl. Understanding August Wilson. Columbia, SC: Univ of South Carolina Press, 1999. Print.
Steffens, Johannes. Recognizing ‘Fences’ – Troy Maxson’s Identity Politics. New York: GRIN Verlag, 2007. print.
Wilson, August. Fences Drama: A Pocket Anthology. 3rd Ed. New York: Penguin Academics, 2006. Print.