August Wilson Fences

Fences by August Wilson, from

Fences by [Wilson] is a stage play that takes place in the 1950's in a working-class neighborhood in what is believed to be Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania according to The Gale Group. August Wilson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in April of 1945 and was a very successful author and play-write. His production of Fences was first brought to the stage in 1983 with James Earl Jones cast as the leading role and later earned four Antionette ("Tony") Perry awards(The Gale Group, 10). The story centers around a father and head of household named Troy Maxson. Troy is a former baseball player, prisoner, and current garbage truck driver who struggles with providing for his family, overcoming his past mistakes and missed opportunities, alcoholism, remaining faithful to his wife, and fulfilling his duties as a father. Troy Maxson, the main character in the play, often seems to blame himself and feel sorry for himself for things that have happened in his life throughout the play, often resulting with his family members picking up the pieces. This play represents the bad love because it shows how much pain a single person can inflict upon himself and his family and the family still loves that person because they are family.

Throughout the play Troy often portrays self-pity and self-loathing, but also takes his anger and bad decisions out on his family members. It is this focus that I will show how the bad love is portrayed to his spouse, children, and to Troy himself. His wife, Rose, is a very patient and forgiving woman and that becomes more and more evident as the play goes along due to all of the actions of Troy and her responses to those actions. You often find yourself thinking "Why doesn't this woman just leave him?". Also, his relationship with his children is a very strenuous relationship and could have easily been avoided had he not repeated many mistakes that would and could inevitably hinder his children from loving him more and taking advantages of opportunities presented to them. Lastly, as you read along in the play, it becomes more and more evident that Troy beats himself up emotionally and is very hard on himself. However, rather than making positive changes, he often seems to drink more and dig himself further and further into a hole he cannot seem to get out of to no fault but his own.

                At the beginning of the play, Rose, is present at a conversation between Troy and his son from a previous marriage named Lyon. Lyon shows up to Troy's work place and asks for a small loan of ten dollars. Troy becomes angry and argumentative towards his son instead of complying with the small amount. Lyon shows his frustration with his father and makes a comment along the lines of "You don't have the right to boss me around since you were not present in my upbringing and the least you could do is lend me $10.00". Instead of sitting on the sideline and watching her husband and his son argue, she instead intervenes and quells the argument and loans her step-son the $10.00 herself. This is one of the first showings of the patience and compassion she has for others throughout the play. Later in the play, it comes out that Troy has fathered a daughter with a different woman while he is still married to Rose. Unfortunately, the woman dies while giving birth to the little girl. Instead of leaving Troy, rose decided to take in the child and raise her as her own. This is a combination of good and bad love but leaves you leaning toward the bad love because of what Troy puts her through and what she takes from him. It is good because she is so selfless and loving for others and seems to take the high road quite often. However, it is this same attribute that Troy takes advantage of. He knows that he can do whatever he wants and although he may feel guilt when he gets caught, Rose will always sacrifice her own happiness to the benefit of others.

                Troy also has a very rocky and strenuous relationship with his children. He has children from three different women and has a different relationship with each of them, oftentimes a negative relationship. These relationships he has with his children are examples of bad love as well because if the children did not care, they would not allow themselves to be hurt and be disappointed. For it is only with expectations that someone can be disappointed. He tells his oldest son to get a job and quit asking him for money instead of helping him how he can and when he can. He often argues with his second child and goes behind his back to instruct his sons coach that his son is no longer to be allowed to play football because he is mad at him for not completing his chores. Given their current economic situation and Troy's athletic accomplishments in his own past, one would think that if Troy's son is able to excel in sports and possibly earn a scholarship that would allow him to have a better education and possibly better life, Troy would want him to have every chance he could get. However, instead of supporting his children and instilling good virtues and qualities in them, he is often absent from the picture and is confrontational when in the picture. He seems to be more of a "do what I say and don’t as why" type of person rather than a "I need you to do what I told you to do and this is why" type of person. These things, combined with his infidelity and alcoholism, often lead to a strained relationship between Troy and his children.

Fences - Analyzing Staging in Act 1, Scene 3 - "How come you ain't never liked me?"

Fences - Analyzing Staging in Act 1, Scene 3 - "How come you ain't never liked me?"


Lastly, Troy is extremely hard on himself and often finds himself repeating his mistakes and absorbing himself in self-pity rather than correcting the past mistakes and making sure he never repeats them again. He often seems to be a "why me?" type of personality and seems to just be ok with life because "that’s just the way things are". He claims he was never able to succeed as a professional baseball player due to the fact that he was an African-American. Not that that is not a legitimate reason, because it is, he neglects the fact that he committed a crime that resulted in another man's death that sent him to prison and that took fifteen years off of his life that he was unable to pursue his athletic dreams. He also does not accept or acknowledge that he has anger and alcohol issues. Troy seems to be getting in his own way on a daily basis and is in a routine of being miserable. How is this the bad love? It is the bad love because it is Troy's love for pain and misery that causes his own life to fall apart but it also causes emotional stress amongst his children and his spouse.

                Sadly, this play represents a lot of struggles that many families in America faced in the 1950's and 1960's before, during, and after the civil rights movement. A lot of African-American males who were not brought up in a household that encouraged education and could have overcome poverty with athletics, did not get that opportunity only due to the fact that their color of their skin was different from whites. Families were often ruined and their love for each other tested when the father sought attention and self-fulfillment from other places such as alcohol and a mistress. This play represents the bad love not only because of what Troy put himself and his family through, but also to what the family members were willing to go through because the loved Troy

Works Cited

Wilson, August “Fences.” Delbanco, Nicholas and Alan Cheuse. Literature Craft and Voice. Second Edition. New York City: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print

The Gale Group. A Study Guide for: August Wilson’s “Fences”. Farmington Hills: 2002. Apple iBook file.

“August Wilson” A&E Networks. 16 October 2013 Web