Play “Fences” by August Wilson

What starts as a friendly yet competitive conversation about baseball, money, and Cory’s future eventually becomes a display of the generational gap and the different mindsets of the father and son. The two have irreconcilable differences on these issues and while Troy gives logical and pragmatic answers to Cory’s question about buying a television when the topic switches to baseball, Troy starts displaying an irrational and overly protective attitude because he does not want Cory to formally pursue baseball as a career as he believes black players do not get their due in the Major Leagues. Cory challenges him when Troy gives the example of Roberto Clemente as a black player who mostly sits on the bench by disagreeing and saying he gets ample opportunities to perform. Cory disagrees with Troy’s theory that black players are mere accessories and proves his point by solid reasoning and examples of players who not only get the chance to play but have made a name for themselves by their excellent performance.

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When Cory asks Troy why he never liked Cory, the father responds by saying that he believes that as a father, his responsibility to his son is to simply provide a roof and shelter, food, and the gift of life. This shows that Troy belonged to the generation that was doing the above-mentioned absolved one of the duties of fatherhood, and there was little or no emphasis on anything related to feelings, such as showing love, appreciation, or kindness via a simple pat on the back at times.

When in Scene IV Bono and Troy recount their childhood experiences, memories of their father, and how they matured as they left the south, Lyons learns important things about his father’s life that he had not had the chance to know earlier. As Troy and Bono remember their past, Lyons learns about his culture, the difficult times and struggles earlier generations had had to live through, and how relatively easy the younger generation’s lives were.

Gabriel, Troy’s brother who fought in World War II and suffered a massive head wound. He now believes he is the archangel Gabriel as he walks around carrying a basket and singing in the neighborhood. His character wants to please the people around him and has a certain innocent quality to it.

Rose finally lets all her frustrations with Troy loose as he confesses to her about his betrayal and Alberta’s pregnancy. She is extremely upset and says that she has been loyal to him for eighteen years, giving him her whole life, and has never hurt him even though there were many times when she felt disappointed and stuck with him. Rose did not discuss her needs and dreams with Troy ever before maybe because this was the point at which her patience snapped and reeling from the shock of the betrayal, she could not hide her feelings anymore.

Rose decides to take care of Troy and Alberta’s baby, Raynell, as she believes that the baby is not to blame for the sinful alliance of his parents. She accepts Raynell as her own child also because she is religious at heart as she makes a Biblical reference about her belief: “when the sins of our fathers visit us/we don’t have to play host/we can banish them with forgiveness/as God in his largeness and laws.” Hence, accepting Raynell as a member of their family is an act she does because of her faith and because it is a godly act.

In Scene IV, Rose has more of an independent air about her as she does not have to inform Troy about her comings and goings, and Troy can look after himself and heat his own dinner. She is very devoted to her church and more religious than she was before. Bono and Troy do not share the closeness like before and have become almost strangers as they try to catch up on each other’s lives. Bono’s social circle has changed and both do not share the easy-going, friendly dynamic they once had.

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Cory’s use of a baseball bat against his father is significant because that was the bone of contention between them, and an important cause leading to their falling out. Cory is no longer scared of his father and will not be forced to show him respect and one of the primary reasons for this was that his father robbed him of something he deeply treasured: baseball.

The reason Wilson decided to have Troy’s death occur offstage could be that he wanted the scenes to reflect the impact of his life and death on his friends and family, and not focus on the actual event of his death. Cory can forgive Troy as he and Raynell connect at the end because he can finally understand the reasons behind Troy’s stubborn and oppressive stance in life. Cory understands Troy’s struggles and life experiences had led him to make many mistakes along the way but his father had still tried to do the best that he could, given his circumstances.

References

Kennedy, X. J. & Gioia, Dana. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 5th ed. Longman, 2007.

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