A critical analysis of the play Fences

280 views 9 pages ~ 2296 words
Get a Custom Essay Writer Just For You!

Experts in this subject field are ready to write an original essay following your instructions to the dot!

Hire a Writer

While doing research on August Wilson's play Fences, I came across authors who had provided analysis based on themes, character, and point of view. Using the tools listed above, they have thoroughly examined the play. They have not, however, addressed Wilson's use of setting, symbols, and images in the drama. My goal in this paper is to conduct a thorough analysis by connecting the three sources in order to cover all of the tools.

August Wilson's fifth play, "Fence," was written and performed in Pittsburg in 1965 with the goal of examining the evolution of black culture in the twentieth century (Gantt 1). The drama combines symbolism and metaphors to bring to picture the life of the story of Troy Maxon and his family. From the beginning of the drama, there are conflicts and shadowing that are directed towards his belief that he has failed in life and the world did not give him what he deserved. In the play, Troy believes that he has to go outside his family to seek refuge (Wilson 5). The story begins and ends while he still finds refuge elsewhere.

You may also like: Use “do my term paper” services at TopEssayWriting and have some free time.

The analysis will focus on the themes that occur in each act and scene of the drama to last scene and the conclusion of the play. The point of view in the play is through the eyes of Troy as viewed by the audience. He is the main character in the drama, and the plot of the play revolves around his life and the decisions he makes, which are both good and bad. The themes also enable the audience to learn more about the life of the African America in the mid and late 1950s (Elkins 105). Life was getting better because most of them could gain citizenship. It happened before the civil rights movement. The whole scenario shows that citizenship was not enough for acceptance and understanding of the assimilated African American culture (Gannt 2). It also did not mean putting into the open the injustices that had been committed to them in the past.

The second part of the analysis entails combining each act and scene through relational and unity issues and actions that keep the drama developing and making the audience curious to know what is coming next in the drama (Caywood et al. 9). Wilson has used metaphors in the play and the relationship between the metaphors is a critical aspect of the analysis of the drama.

The introduction part of the drama outlines the plight of the African American to prepare the audience. They need to view the scene from the 1950s, considering the economic and social conditions of the African Americans in that decade (Wilson 3). They were looked upon as lesser citizens who came as immigrants to America to find a better life. Many of them moved to the Northern part of America where they were not warmly welcomed (Dobie 33). They were instead pushed back, giving them only the basest part of life. This aspect of their life in the 1950s was what Wilson wants his audience to understand throughout the play. He also introduces the fence so that the audience can know its importance as a symbol in the scene to demonstrate the way of life, both at the societal and individual level (Elkins 106).

After organizing the setting and the atmosphere of the play, Wilson takes the audience to the apparent happy life of Troy Maxon before disclosing how he felt a failure in life and was never happy about the situation (Caywood et al. 10). The difference between the white and the black people is the first symbol that arises from the play. Troy at some point takes a stand and asks why the black people were not given a chance to drive a trash truck (Wilson 3). From his assertiveness, most of his co-workers believed that he risked being dismissed from work. By the end of the play, the audience realized that Troy had taken a bold step for the African American people, but he still did not appreciate what he had done and the chance he was given (Gantt 12). The theme of not being recognized is shown throughout by all the symbols in the play.

The second symbol is the use of sports in the play to bring out Troy’s dream of the future. He was a baseball player and had been in the Negro league until the age of forty (Dobie 34). The problem arose in his baseball career when he was overlooked by the new professional team that was formed because of his age (Wilson 3). His dream of being in the white professional league was smashed, and he had nothing to be proud about. He, therefore, started looking down upon himself because he never made it to the team. He was also mentally affected because of what had occurred. From that time, he saw his life and his family as a failure and wanted to escape from them. He also felt a responsibility to them.

Hire PhD experts in your subject area when have "help me write my dissertation" request.

The feeling of failure is also displayed in his relationship with his son, Cory. Cory is a football player and was recruited to be part of the team in his college, but his father fails to acknowledge his hard work and abilities (Caywood et al. 11). Troy is not ready to let his son pursue his dream and even refuses to allow him to study. Troy’s resentment of his son is also shown in act 1, scene 3 when Cory asked him why he never liked him (Wilson 5). He becomes angry at the question and tells Cory that he is responsible to him. Cory only saw his father as an irritating person who did not want him to prosper. Their relationship worsened until the last scene when his father died, and the animosity between them was put to rest.

Troy loved his second son Lyon because he saw him as a failure too, because he wanted to become a musician but was never successful (Elkins 108). He was better than Cory because just like him, Lyon was not able to achieve his dream. He believed that his son would get a job and become more successful apart from pursuing a music career. In the last scene, it appears that Lyon was defeated, but he still followed his dream.

The confusing part is how Troy claimed that he loved and praised his wife, Rose. He argues that there is no better wife than her and he is happy to have her in his life. The audience got confused in Act 1, Scene 1 when his friend Boro, expressed interest in Alberta (Wilson 4). Troy does not deny him attention but instead brings in a different story to prevent Boro talking about her. He avoids him throughout the scene until he tells his wife Rose that Alberta is pregnant with his baby.

Rose is displayed as a strong African American woman. She dedicated all her life and soul to love Troy, but he sought to seek companion elsewhere (Wilson 4). He explained to her that the affair came about because he was trying to ignore the responsibility of his failed life just for a while (Gantt 13). His reason aggrieves Rose the more because he has never taken her feelings and needs into consideration when making decisions. They remained married, but Troy always went to see Alberta but in the knowledge of Rose. When Alberta died while giving birth, she was the first person to get the news through a call from the hospital (Dobie 25). Rose continues to be a strong woman even after Troy brought his daughter. He pleaded with Rose to help her take care of the child. Her response further revealed her strength to the audience. She told him that she would be the mother of the child, but for him, he will be womanless (Elkins 120). Rose did not blame the child for her misfortunes but took the responsibility of raising her. Troy is shown that he will have not only the responsibility of taking care of the child but also his other children and wife while he gets nothing in return.

Read also: Can I pay someone to write my research paper?

The fence and the baseball become intrinsic in explaining Troy’s life. It symbolically represents his affair even before the family knew (Caywood et al. 11). Rose had requested the fence which symbolically meant to hold her family together. Troy never worked on the fence most of the time. It shows that he was not in love with her, but felt responsible for her life. Troy wanted freedom, and his acceptance of being a failure was symbolized by the fence (Wilson 5). Throughout the play, Wilson continually uses the game of baseball as a metaphor to Troy’s life. He uses it because Troy failed to make it to the selected team.

One of the most dominant themes in the play is the relationship between father and sons. Troy and Bono talk about their childhood, which they say was a challenge since their fathers were difficult people to deal with (Gantt 21). The society in which they lived was full of racism. Troy’s experience as he grew up was different from that of Bono because his father took care of the family and did not give him fatherly advice apart from just putting food on the table (Dobie 31). Unlike troy’s dad, his father was a victim of the civil war, and he did not have a job to sustain his family. He only cared about his physical and emotional needs. Bono and his siblings were therefore left to fend for themselves. Both Bono and Troy’s upbringing influenced how they created and took care of their families. Despite Troy’s attempts not to be like his father, the way he treated his children are a reflection of how Mr. Maxson treated them (Wilson 4). For Troy’s children coming of age meant having the courage and learn how to be independent. The play is not necessarily how history repeats itself, but how a person’s past influenced their life and that of the family.

When Troy was growing up, he did not like the way his father headed the family. Although they had food and shelter, their father never catered for their emotional needs. This situation forced Troy to grow up quickly and take care of himself. According to him, his father stays together with them, but he was just as evil as he could be. He further states that her mother could not stand, the father too (Caywood et al. 13). His experience affects how he raises his children. At his teenage, Troy was found together with the daughter of Joe Canewell during work hours. His father was mad at him and caned him for his misbehaviors. From then onwards, Troy has never been happy with his father and became rebellious. He chooses to be independent and prove to his father that he could make it in life (Wilson 5). The same incident occurs with his son Cory who was bitter with him for not supporting him to become a professional footballer. Their resentment grew, and they never reconciled.

By looking back at his life, Troy learns from his father’s mistakes and that he ought to have respected him because he had a lot of responsibility in bringing him up (Elkins 124). He also tries as much as possible to be a good father and perfect form what his father had done. The audience can see hope Troy succeeded and at the same time failed in his pursuit (Gantt 23). In most of the instances, he is not different from his father. He too does not provide emotional support for his children. Cory sees him as a provider and not a caregiver. He, therefore, feels disconnected from his father. According to Troy, a father’s responsibility is to provide for the basic needs of his family (Dobie 32). Since he grew up without a mother, he does not understand the necessity of giving care and emotionally supporting his children. He takes for granted the ability of his wife to take care of the children’s emotional needs. However, the children are lucky to have a balanced family because, without their mother, they would have been raised up the same manner their father grew up (Gantt 22).

From the above analysis, the play is an accurate reflection of how the conditions of the society were in the 1950s. The family of the main protagonist reflects how most of the families brought up their children and the struggles to fit into the racial society where the African Americans were not considered as upright people. The author has also created a perfect atmosphere for the audiences to understand most of the themes in the play.

Useful info: Order essay writing service and get good grades.

Works Cited

Caywood, Cynthia L., Marilyn Elkins, and Carlton Floyd. "Introduction; special issue on August Wilson." College Literature 36.2 (2009): ix-xv. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/262594/summary.

Dobie, Ann B. Theory into practice: An introduction to literary criticism. Cengage Learning, 2011. https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=QWwIAAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=formalism+Dobie+chapter+3&ots=Z2c1YrQq7H&sig=WCUNU4zr74ChmUL1eNg-_FL5o3k&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=formalism%20Dobie%20chapter%203&f=false.

Elkins, Marilyn, ed. August Wilson: A Casebook. Vol. 1626. Routledge, 2013. https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=IUSzAQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=theme+analysis+of+fences+by+wilson&ots=EHcRCJSU-s&sig=XeUK-MZ5deqyWfFeb2Km6p4Z2Zg&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=theme%20analysis%20of%20fences%20by%20wilson&f=false.

Gantt, Patricia M. "Putting black culture on stage: August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle." College Literature 36.2 (2009): 1-25.


Wilson, August. Fences. Connecticut Repertory Theatre, 1994. https://www.tpet.com/content/PHSamples/FencesRJs.pdf.

September 21, 2021

Literary Genres Movies

Subject area:

Drama Character Fences

Number of pages


Number of words




Writer #



Expertise Fences
Verified writer

Tony is a caring and amazing writer who will help you with anything related to English literature. As a foreign exchange student, I received the best kind of help. Thank you so much for being there for me!

Hire Writer

This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Eliminate the stress of Research and Writing!

Hire one of our experts to create a completely original paper even in 3 hours!

Hire a Pro

Similar Categories