Analysis Fences by August Wilson through the lens of the poems ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ by Emily Dickinson and ‘I Too’ by Langston Hughes

The play ‘Fences’ by August Wilson underlines the activities that surround Troy, the main character. The play is set in an African America set up as underlined by the elements of racial segregation in the book. A fence refers to a boundary set either to prevent an individual’s properties such as houses and land from destruction or interference by others or infringement of a person’s thoughts and ambitions as outlined by the play. Diverse activities unfold in the play ‘Fences’ by August Wilson play a significant role in providing insight behind the title of the play. Troy is the main character in the play as it underlines his relationship with other people, as well as his role in changing the course of the lives of the people close to him. The poems ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ by Emily Dickinson and ‘I Too’ by Langston Hughes will play a critical role in analyzing the play ‘Fences’ by August Wilson.

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The poem ‘I Too’ by Langston Hughes depicts a person who has been segregated because of his race as he is African American. Despite the challenges facing the person, he or she is certain that he deserves better treatment, for he is an American as well. Moreover, the persona believes that the worries and challenges of today will not undermine the chances of success tomorrow. On the other hand, the poem ‘Because I could not stop Death’ by Emily Dickinson underlines the challenges faced by a small group of people. The small group may be a given family who trudged with their problems as they were bounded by a fence that had either ‘erected’ on their own or as a result of the challenges they faced. Moreover, the poem underlines the struggles of a segregated family about their struggles in life until a point where death was evident as underlined by ‘We paused before a House that seemed, A Swelling of the Ground’ (Dickinson 17/18).

The play ‘Fences’ focuses on the life and activities of Troy and the people close to him. Troy built a fence around his home as underlined by the wall to prevent people from interfering with his activities. Also, he built an atmosphere that resembled a fence as he operated in a manner that ensured his affairs were rarely interfered with by either his friends or family members (Wilson 7). Although he changed his stealing behaviors after serving his jail term, he continued with his self-centered antics until his death. The poem ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ correlates with the post-burial activities of Troy. For instance, the lines ‘Because I could not stop for Death –He kindly stopped for me’ (Dickinson 1/2) give an insight into the role of death in the family of Troy. Troy’s burial served as a basis for reuniting the scattered family. The boundaries created by Troy played a significant role in the existence of division in the family.

Boundaries existed in the manner in which the African Americans were treated as far as work was concerned. For instance, Troy had to act against the odds to secure the employment of a garbage truck driver, a position commonly held by their white counterparts as he had worked as a collector, a role set aside for the blacks (Wilson 10). The poem ‘I Too’ unveils the motivation behind Troy’s decision to seek for a driver position through the second stanza ‘Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table’ (Hughes 7/8). Also, the lines ‘Nobody’ll dare say to me, Eat in the kitchen’ (Hughes 9/10). Troy had an ambition of moving away from the boundary set by the whites as far as working conditions for their black counterparts was concerned.

Cory, Troy’s son, fails to earn himself a scholarship to study at the university as his father was unable to come to terms with the fact that playing football would help his son maneuver the national challenge posed during his time as a youthful individual. The boundary Troy set for himself hampered their relationship with his son, as underlined by the fact that he engaged in warfare with Cory (Wilson 63). As a result, Cory had to put away his dreams and ambition of joining the university due to the boundary set by his father. As the poem ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ underlines ‘And I had to put away my labor and my leisure too, for his civility’ (Dickinson 6/7/8). Similarly, Rose, Troy’s wife, is left in the dark as Troy dates Alberta until her demise when she leaves behind a child, only for her to know the truth. As the poem ‘I Too’ denotes, ‘They send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes’ (Hughes 2/3). The lines in the poem replicate Rose’s condition as far as Alberta was concerned, for she was ignored and despised.

Although Cory and his father parted ways as he failed to permit him to join a university due to his prowess in playing football, he forges a way of living a better life as he opts to join the military forces (Wilson 66). At the funeral, nobody expected him to be decent as he did, having failed to clinch an opportunity to participate on campus. As underlined by the poem ‘I Too’ by Langstone, ‘They’ll see how beautiful I am’ (Hughes 15). Cory’s appearance at the burial perplexed several people who thought his life had turned for the worst. Similarly, Gabriel’s move to dance after a failed music underlines the level of astonishment in the burial congregation as he was in a mental rehabilitation unit.

The poem ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ serves as a climax to the play ‘Fences’ by August Wilson as it gives an insight into the events that happened during Troy’s burial (Wilson 95). The lines Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet, feels shorter than the Day’ underline how the rather long time since Troy’s family divided is perceived as shorter. Also, the family members put their difference aside to grant Troy a remarkable send-off though he affected the course of their lives in one way or another.

In conclusion, the play ‘Fences’ by August Wilson underlines the activities that revolve around the life of Troy, the main character. Even though Troy believed some of his acts were channeled at ensuring his family lived happily, they caused more harm than help. Troy’s antics played a pivotal role in the separation experienced in his family, as well as the fading relationship between him and his friend Boni. Nevertheless, the family makes ends during the funeral. The funeral symbolizes the end of the boundary orchestrated by Troy. The poem ‘Dickinson and ‘I Too’ by Hughes plays a pivotal role in providing a lens for analyzing the play.


Works Cited

Dickinson, Emily. “Because I Could not Stop for Death.” 25 May 1999. Poetry Foundation. Medium.

Hughes, Langstone. “I Too.” 13 September 2004. Poetry Foundation. Document.

Wilson, August. Fences. London: Samuel French Publishers, 1986. Document.