August Wilson's Fences

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Fences by August Wilson presents the challenges and tribulations of the Maxson family. Troy strives to fulfill his parental obligations to his son, Cory. Troy also has to cater for his wife, Rose, amidst other struggles. The play portrays the intricate relationships that define family life. It is noteworthy to contemplate the attitudes of Troy, Cory, and Rose regarding family relations. In this paper, I will demonstrate how Troy’s definition of family alienated his wife and son.

            Troy considered himself as the ultimate decision-maker in his family (Letzler 306). In this regard, he wanted his family members to acquiesce to his decisions. For instance, Troy castigated his son for giving up the latter’s job at A&P. Cory got good grades at school and wished for his father to talk with the recruiter. Nevertheless, Troy commanded his son to reclaim the position at A&P. Troy manifested his domineering attitude when he stated, “I don’t care what nobody else say. I’m the boss…you understand? I’m the boss around here. I do the only saying what counts” (Wilson). In this manner, Troy demanded for ultimate respect from his son. His family was to obey his decisions without any reservations. It was disrespectful to challenge the wisdom of Troy’s decisions.

            Troy’s hardline stance on decision-making had a detrimental impact on his wife and son (Gale 42). For instance, Cory was convinced that his father hated him. This feeling emerged from the fact that Troy was unwilling to consider his son’s wishes. Cory wanted to advance his football career as part of Coach Zellman’s team. On the other hand, Troy felt that his son would be happier and more fulfilled if the latter continued working at A&P. Troy informed his son that he should quit the football team if he could not manage to work. It is notable that Cory created an arrangement that would allow him to work on weekends and practice football during the week. However, Troy’s definition of family had a negative effect on Cory’s self-esteem.

            Furthermore, Troy considered the provision of basic needs as the most important obligation (Gale 46). He was not required to worry about his son’s career choices. As long as he could afford to provide shelter, food, and clothing, his family should have been contented. In fact, Troy stated that, “It’s my job. It’s my responsibility! You understand that? A man got to take care of his family” (Wilson). This disposition alienated his son and caused him to have a warped view of male responsibilities. Troy’s viewpoints were quite erroneous since professional football players were given lucrative contracts. Cory could still care for his financial obligations if he was contracted to play football. Impressing the recruiter would help Cory to gain entry into college. Troy should have spoken to the recruiter on behalf of his son. However, his obstinate nature denied his son the opportunity to play professional football.

            Troy undermined the value of love and emotional support within a family (Jose and Raj 569). This attitude was manifest through his inability to show compassion and kindness. Cory deserved commendation for getting good grades at school. His decision to insure the job at the grocery store reflected maturity beyond his years. Troy should have encouraged his son to pursue a football career. Cory had the right to make personal decisions concerning his future. Troy’s lack of compassion caused his son to be disillusioned and crestfallen (Letzler 309). Children thrive when parents show love and concern for their welfare. Parents are also expected to protect their children against harmful activities. Nevertheless, it was utterly irresponsible for Troy to dismiss his son and ignore the latter’s desires.

            Notably, Troy’s harsh and critical attitude had a negative impact on his wife (Gale 57). Rose noted that Cory was trying to imitate his father. She begged her husband, “Why don’t you let the boy go ahead and play football, Troy? Ain’t no harm in that. He’s just trying to be like you with the sports” (Wilson). Troy belittled his wife’s counsel and prioritized his own desires. Although he was too old to play football during his prime years, Troy claimed that his exclusion was due to racism. Rose became detached from her husband due to his lack of empathy (Jose and Raj 571). After telling her husband that Cory sought his father’s approval, Troy stated, “I ain’t got time for that. He’s alive. He’s healthy. He’s got to make his own way. I made mine. Ain’t nobody gonna hold his hand when he get out there in that world” (Wilson). Such blatant dismissal caused Rose to loathe her husband. Troy also claimed that he could not give anything else other than what he had provided. Consequently, the relationship between Troy and Rose became strained.

             A family refers to a social unit consisting of married heterosexual couples. Marriage mates can choose to have children or remain childless. Such families customarily benefit from certain legal rights. For instance, a husband or wife is usually protected from testifying against his or her mate, respectively (Berger 23). Taxation laws also provide relief for married couples whenever both mates have stable jobs. The diversification of social values has led to variations in family values. For instance, gay couples have gained legal recognition in many countries (Powell 3). The numbers of single-parent families and cohabiting couples have also increased in recent decades. Therefore, the definition of family has changed over time.

            Families composed of heterosexual couples must have defined roles to ensure happiness and prosperity. Men are expected to act as heads of their families (Berger 25). In this regard, they are required to make final decisions on contentious matters. Wives and children are obligated to respect the decisions made by family heads. Men are also expected to work secularly and hence provide for the material needs of their families (Berger 39). The most basic needs include suitable shelter, adequate food, and decent clothing. Resources must also be acquired to cater for school fees and medical expenses. Beyond the fundamental needs, men should provide for the spiritual and emotional needs of their families. Men who fulfill their obligations earn the love and admiration of their wives and children.

            On the other hand, women should be submissive to the direction of their husbands (Berger 42). Any attempt to undermine or usurp the man’s authority usually strains the marriage. The supportive role performed by the woman is especially important when the man is away. Under such circumstances, wives should avoid making disparaging comments about their husbands. Children can detect any signs of tension among parents. It is important for parents to present a united front when dealing with children. Forms of discipline must be uniform to all children. Granted, many parents find it difficult to discipline their children. However, it is critical to note that young people thrive when clear boundaries are set. This helps them to control their behavior and practice obedience.

            Balanced families set aside time for relaxation and entertainment (Berger 48). Parents can develop strong bonds with their children when they spend time together. Such association can embolden children to confide in their parents whenever problems arise. Besides, marriage mates need to set aside time for themselves to draw closer to one another. All families periodically face challenges of every sort. It is vital to establish healthy habits with regards to dispute resolution. Some families have made it a goal to have at least one meal together. Such practices are proper since they ensure family unity.

            Individual members of the family are obligated to contribute towards harmony and well-being. Some issues should be kept in-house to ensure trust and confidentiality. Families provide a system of unconditional support for all members (Berger 62). In this respect, family members must be willing to assist each other when unexpected difficulties arise. Children should freely approach their parents to relay any issues. In some cases, teenagers prefer to share their problems with peers at school or in the neighborhood. This mostly happens since children feel drawn to their peers. Nonetheless, parents should strive to understand the circumstances under which their children study and grow. This will enable them to protect their children against unwholesome influences.

            Children have a considerable role with regards to the success of their families. They should strive to respect the directions of their parents (Berger 63). It may appear as if parents want to restrict the freedom of their children. However, teenagers should keep in mind that parents love them and wish the best for them. Parents also have the right to impose any restrictions that seem necessary to protect their children. Friends and associates at school can teach children immoral behaviors. The internet is also filled with sexual predators seeking to take advantage of unsuspecting children. Moreover, pornographic sites can corrupt the morals and thoughts of children. Due to such threats, parents are obliged to set limits and safeguards to protect their children. Teenagers who feel restricted should consider the motivation behind the rules established by parents.

            In some cases, parents set curfews for children to restrict their movements. Such restrictions are well-intentioned considering the dangers prevalent in modern society. Nevertheless, parents should be reasonable and grant progressive freedoms to their children. Teenagers who display maturity and trustworthy behavior should be allowed certain freedoms. Treating teenagers as mere children can lead to rebellion. Although parents love their children, it may be necessary to allow children to undergo certain difficulties (Berger 67). Challenges of this sort can refine a teenager’s character and prepare him for future difficulties. Shielding a child from the consequences of his or her actions deprives the latter of valuable life lessons. It is probable that children will pursue different paths to those proposed by their parents. This creates the need for reasonableness and respect between parents and children.

            Indeed, Troy’s definition of family created a barrier between his wife and son. He was content to provide for the material needs of his family. However, he neglected to show compassion towards his son and wife. Consequently, the family grew apart as Troy alienated Rose and Cory. Functional families should provide a sense of belonging for all members. Happiness will also be achieved if every person fulfilled their role within the family arrangement.

Works Cited

Berger, Brigitte. The family in the modern age: More than a lifestyle choice. New York: Routledge, 2017. Print.

Gale, Cengage Learning. A Study Guide for August Wilson's Fences. Gale, Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.

Jose, Soumya, and Sony Jalarajan Raj. "Generational Dissension in August Wilson’s Fences."International Research Journal of Management Sociology and Humanity5.2 (2014): 568-582.

Letzler, David. "Walking Around the Fences: Troy Maxson and the Ideology of"Going Down Swinging"."African American Review 47.2 (2014): 301-312.

Powell, Brian. "Changing counts, counting change: Toward a more inclusive definition of family."Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences 17.1 (2017): 1-15.

Wilson, August. Fences. Web. 24 Mar. 2018. Available from

December 12, 2023

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