Fences by August Wilson is a play that encompasses the lives of African Americans in their day to day interactions. Set in the 1950s, Wilson sheds light on the challenges that people of color (African Americans) face. Troy Mason, an African American patriarch, working as a sanitation officer, risks his life protecting his family. Despite playing in the Negroes baseball leagues, which was banned, he engages in a series of interactions in a bid to safeguard well being of his entire family. Wilson incorporates a number of literary techniques that help to integrate the challenges that African Americans, Troy being a representative, face during that era. For instance, Wilson uses his characters as well as setting as tools to make his message known to his audience. This paper seeks to explore these two literary techniques in a bid to show a clear picture of the view of African Americans in that era.
As the main character, Troy Maxson makes it his main agenda to shape the future of his family members. During that time, African Americans received fewer opportunities and were treated unfairly in the workplace (Wilson). Not being able to stand this, Troy risks his life protesting against the harsh treatment that African Americans were subjected to. For instance, he protests that blacks should be given positions as drivers and not only as lifters. In all his protests, Troy shows that he is focused on establishing a stable and peaceful society for African Americans; he is disturbed by the fact that African Americans face discrimination regardless of their efforts and determination at work as well as in any other sector (Lewis and Shannon 712). Through his heroism, he acts as a mirror, demonstrating the capability and capacity of African Americans. Being the protagonist of the play, Troy tries to reach out to the audience in order to influence them to see the world through his eyes. He is undoubtedly a clear reflection of the men and women who have risked their lives trying to achieve the greater good of all in society. He comes out as a humanitarian advocate.
It is imperative to note that Troy is human and is prone to faults. Although married, Troy has an affair with a certain lady, and this he keeps hidden until the end of the play. The fact that he has a wife does not stop him from being an infidel, something that does not appear to cause any regret on his part. In any society, infidelity is highly detested, and this explains why Troy keeps his affair in secret. However, looking beyond his act of infidelity, Troy is only demonstrating the true nature of society. Wilson uses him to represent the plight of both men and women who turn to be infidels (Joodaki 61-69), regardless of the reasons why they do so. In fact, this is a clear representation of the situation in contemporary society. In this regard, one can argue that Troy’s acts are a bridge connection between the 1950s and the 2000s.
Culturally, the play can be viewed as one that represents a time where there was a division between cultures. This is clearly brought by the setting of the play. During the 1950s, people of color, African Americans being part, were not viewed as worthy individuals in society (Wilson). In this respect, their well being was not acknowledged as they were perceived as having an inferior culture. One of the key things that demonstrate this is their continued discrimination as well as subjection to prejudicial statements (Joodaki 61-69). Culture acts as a major theme in Wilson’s play, creating a platform on which the audience can tell the history of how African Americans lived in the past. In essence, the focus is on how they were perceived and mistreated in society. This ranges from the jobs they were given to the privileges they were offered, if at all, there were any. Undoubtedly, the play represents a clear picture of how being affiliated to a certain culture rendered one vulnerable or superior in society.
Wilson’s play tells a story of an African American family through the efforts of their father and husband, Troy Maxson. His efforts and advocacy toward better jobs for African Americans demonstrate the discrimination that they face because of their racial background. Wilson uses Troy as a representative of people who have, for a long time, fought for equality in society, regardless of one’s racial, ethnic, or cultural backgrounds. In order to complement his view of the plight of African American people, he uses a setting that sheds light on the perception of their culture. They are viewed as being inferior, as this explains why there are a number of protests which Troy instigates. Fences is not only mirroring the treatment of African Americans based on their cultural background but also the existence of infidelity in society. He uses this to show that even the most respected men and women have faults.
Joodaki, Abdol Hossein. ‘Ethnic Identity: Negro’S Double-Consciousness And Ethnic Independency In August Wilson’S Fences’. Journal of Language and Literature, vol.5, no.1, 2014, pp. 61-69. Web.
Lewis, Barbara, and Sandra Shannon. ‘The Dramatic Vision Of August Wilson’. African American Review, vol.33, no.4, 1999, p. 712.
Wilson, August. Fences. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2007. Print.