Fences: Disappointments of the African Americans

Fences: Disappointments of the African Americans
  • Date:
    Jan 28, 2021
  • Category:
    Fences
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‘Fences’, written by August Wilson, is a narration of a story full of disappointments as an African American. An African American family living in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1957, Troy Maxson, who is the main character, is the center of trouble. It is an engraved man due to the struggles he has gone through as a ‘negro’. Troy separated from the family when his father who had over ten children could not sufficiently provide for the family due to lack of opportunities as a result of the white-dominated American society looked down and never cared for the African Americans wellbeing. After separation from the father, Troy moved to the North where everyone else was moving to secure a bag and better living conditions due to the high concentration of industries in the area. In the North, Troy was met with almost similar conditions where the African Americans stood no chance of living a better life (Wilson 72). Despite his struggles to make ends meet through his talent, his blackness played a critical role and, in most instances, he could not secure a better living condition.

Troy is frustrated by these conditions, and he loses hope of living the American dream. To survive, he starts to steal and rob in the streets, which landed him a fifteen-year jail term. This is the same place where Troy met his friend Bono. Troy’s conflict begins with his close friend Bono, Lyons his son from his past relationship, Rose his wife, and Cory, who is also his son. Every existing conflict in the play builds on the structure of the Maxson family as well as every character’s external or inner conflict that is brought forward. 

Troy finds himself a victim of a generation when the African Americans had little to no opportunities. From Troy’s experience, he believes that the African Americans will continue to struggle in America, and the best thing that they can do is to ensure they support their families to the best of their abilities. The present conflict in Troy’s life is because he super-imposes his family members to live with the feeling that African Americans will have to struggle and have a view of life through his lenses. From the first encounter between Lyons and Troy’s family, there is evidence that the relationship is strained, as this is portrayed given the nature of outlook by the two characters.

I believe the many conflicts within the play are better ways of coating the suffering and the bewildering life that exhibits the African Americans living in the United States. Underneath the conflicts, lies deep and hidden sorrows and rage towards an unfair regime that has seen many die disillusioned and unhappy. The American dream which further explained the need to have a country where everyone regardless of the color of their skin had an equal opportunity of rising from the rags to riches has turned to make further the African Americans more vulnerable and poorer. The ghettos which are dominated by African Americans exhibit the worst living conditions although they still pay high rents. The fences are an illustration of how slavery scars, racism, and a society where no black person can succeed regardless of the effort and volition they put in the struggle. Further, institutional racism is another disease that is well put across as Troy is denied a chance to be an athlete as well as a baseball player (Wilson 73). Troy became a garbage collector, living in an environment full of segregation and oppression.

The Failure of the American Dream

Fences by August Wilson is a perfect illustration through a narration of living a failed life. The great migration from the South to the North where there were hopes of freedom from slavery, better living conditions, and jobs at the industries in the North. The African Americans who had just won in the fight against abolition of slavery were a very optimistic lot. They believed that American was a land that offered equal opportunity to all, where it was easy to grow from rags to riches provided, they worked diligently with volition.

To the realization of many African Americans, the American dream was not going to come easy. The conditions were growing murkier for them. The countless dream that every individual had was withering out. Society was super-hostile for the African Americans, and racism was the order of the day. The white supremacies carried the day as they had the first hand in everything happening within America. In act two, scene two of the play, Troy and Rose observe that it seems their life is stuck in the same place for eighteen years. However, they have been able to handle their frustration and disappointments differently.

The conflict within which Troy’s family goes through is due to frustrations and attempts to secure a better future for the next generation. Troy advises Cory to play football for fun and hobby and should not bank as much hope in the game. This is because Troy himself had the talent to play baseball as well as become an athlete, but due to the institutionalized racism against blacks, he could not get a chance to play. Therefore, Cory would not undergo the disappointment he went through in his earlier days.

Baseball as History and Myth

The baseball game has long been regarded as a metaphor for the American dream which expresses hope, democracy, and personal success. It is one of the activities which has demonstrated what is good in living in America, demonstrated by fair play, the rule of law, and provision of equal opportunity to all.

In August, Wilson’s Fence, baseball is used to challenge the genuineness of the American dream. Fences written just before the beginning of the civil rights movements, the play takes place at a time when baseball is well organized and integrated into the system. However, at the same time racism is widely spreading in American society. Troy is consumed with his rage towards the racism witnessed in the baseball game. Troy, a protagonist in the Fences, believes that for an African American to make it to the major league, you must be something else. This is because, during his youth, Troy played baseball in the Negro Leagues. However, he never got a chance to play in the major leagues because he grew old, waiting for a chance to play in the leagues (Wilson 124). This was due to the institutional racism that existed against African Americans.

Troy brings into the picture Jackie Robinson who is the boundary of having crossed the color line. Throughout history, the baseball club owners had agreed to lockout any black baseball player from organized baseball. Through Troy, the feelings and frustrations of the ballplayers by positioning his personality in three mythic situations of; the garden, the battlefield, and the sacred place. Through this, there is a sharp contradiction of the notion of America as a “field of dreams” employing baseball.

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