African-Americans in the Play Fences

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At face value, the play Fences is just simply about the difficulties that African-Americans faced in that time period. However, in addition to racial relations, the play hints at something else. Through the main character Troy, we can also get the understanding the author is trying to tell us something about life. Through Troy, we can see how the past can impact your present if you let it. The play starts off in the backyard of the main character Troy Maxson.

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Troy works as a garbage man, who is struggling with the racial barriers imposed at his job. He is married to Rose and has three kids, one he gets during his affair. The author uses literary devices, the main character, and even the time period to get his point across.

Before mentioning all the elements, the author uses we must mention the one that is unintentional. The time period the author wrote this play in, which is in the 1950s and the year 1957. In order to see how tense racial relations were could look at several key events that were happening around that time. One of the things being that Jim Crow Laws were still in effect. Another, 1954, Brown v. Board of Education ruled that segregated schools violated the 14th amendment and overturned racial segregation in public schools (Brown v. Board of Education (1954)). This was a stepping stone in one of the most important events in the civil rights movement. The Little Rock Nine where nine black students protested public segregation by attending Central High School, an all-white high school.

One literary device we can look at that was used in the play to prove his point was symbolism. One of the biggest symbols in the play comes from the title itself fences. The fence is the play has different meanings for different people. For Troy’s son Cory, the fence is a clear representation of how divided the relationship is with his father. For Rose, the fence shows how unconnected the relationship is with her husband Troy. It also represents the love that she has for them and wants to keep between all them, hence why she wants to fence the house in. For Troy, it represents the obstacles he faced throughout his life and what he has struggled to overcome. This could be the reason why it takes him so long to build it and is reluctant to do so. There is also another use of symbolism we can look at.

Another symbol in the play that Troy mentions a lot of is baseball. We know by the way Troy talks about it, baseball represents several things. One thing it represents is the injustices he faced throughout his life. In Act 1 Scene 1, when Troy talks about baseball we get an insight into how good he truly was at the sport. He says, “Selkirk! That’s it! Man batting .269, understand? .269…. I was hitting .432.” However, he did not make it to the league simply because of his race. In fact, when describing baseball to Rose and Bono they both agreed about how good he was. Bono says, “Times have changed, Troy. You just come along too early.” Even though, at this point in time African-Americans players are finally allowed to make it to the league. We can tell by Troy’s age it is too late for him to follow through with his talent. Troy still holds some bitterness about not making to the major league and takes it out on Cory’s dream.

A different way the author gets his point across is through the main character Troy Maxson. Throughout the play, Troy faces several obstacles and several of these we watch unfold in the play. Along with other things Troy prove two ideas the author tries to get across. While in Act 1 Scene 1, While reminiscing with friend Bono, he talks about the racial barrier they face at work. He says, “Why? Why you got the white men’s driving and the color lifting?” He continues to say, “Only white fellows got sense enough to drive a truck.” Troy was not allowed to drive trucks simply because of his race not, because of his qualifications. This proves his point about the difficulties that African-Americans had to go through. The other point came with Troy’s bitterness towards his baseball career. Troy let his bitterness towards not making it to the major league kill his son’s dream. And ultimately his relationship with his son. Cory has been recruited for football, but his father won’t let him go through with it. He says, “I don’t care where he coming from. The white man ain’t gonna let you go nowhere with that football no way.” At the end of the play, we find out Troy joined the military. We do not know exactly what stopped Cory from following through with football, or even if he did follow through with it. But it is a reasonable guess that his father bitterness of his past held him back.

Lastly, we can look at the major theme used to get the author points across.

In conclusion, Fences by August Wilison showcased two essential points to the reader. One was obvious and went with the things that were happening in the time period it was written. In the 1950s, racial relations were not at its best, Jim Crow laws were still enacted, and public schools still segregated. It took the Little Rock Nine to bring segregated back into the U.S. Supreme Court. Even though, Brown v. Board of Education ruled it unconstitutional a few years prior. The obstacles Troy faces also helped us understand the difficulties African- Americans may have faced. The other point not as obvious was much deeper than race, it was something we can all learn about life. The main character Troy did not make it to the major league, even though he was very talented. He compared his batting score to someone else it was a “.269” compared to a “.432”, which was tremendously better than the other ball player. But we know that Troy race plays a big role in him not going pro. This bitterness, in turn, affected not just impact his present life, but his son’s and their relationship.

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African-Americans In The Play Fences. (2020, Nov 03). Retrieved from