Paper On The Book, Fences

Essay On Fences
We all lead lives filled with anxiety over
certain issues, and with dread of the
inevitable day of our death. In this play,
Fences which was written by the well known
playwright, August Wilson, we have the story
of Troy Maxson and his family. Fences is about
Troy Maxson, an aggressive man who has on
going, imaginary battle with death. His life
is based on supporting his family well and
making sure they have the comforts that he did
not have in his own childhood. Also,
influenced by his own abusive childhood, he
becomes an abusive father who rules his
younger son, Cory’s life based on his own past
experiences. When the issue comes up of Cory
having a bright future ahead of him if he
joins the football team, Troy refuses to allow
him. The root of this decision lies in his own
experience of not being allowed to join the
baseball team due to the racial prejudices of
his time. He does not realize that times have
changed and because of his own past, he ruins
his son’s life too. His wife, Rose, also plays
a big part in the way the story develops. Troy
has an affair with another woman called
Alberta. When Rose finds out about the affair,
she is devastated. In this situation we find
out what her own hopes and dreams were. All
she wanted was a happy home and family life
because of her unstable past. The theme of
this story is how a black family, in the late
fifties to early sixties, faces the problems
that many families are faced with, but in
their own unique ways. This theme can be
traced and observed through the insecurities
and resulting behaviors of the two main
characters, Troy and Rose Maxson.
The main character of this play, Troy
Maxson, considers death to be a part of the
baseball game of life. In one part of the book
he gives a description of how death came to
him when he was in the hospital, and he told
it to return another time. Death is one of his
main insecurities. As he gets older he feels
death coming closer and closer. It seems as
if, just to hold death in abeyance by trying
to feel young again, he has an affair with
this other woman named Alberta. Death strikes
closer to home base for Troy, when his
mistress dies while giving birth to a baby
girl. At this point in the book he makes a
deal with death. He says to it, ” Ain’t nobody
else got nothing to do with this. This is
between you and me. Man to man. You stay on
the other side of that fence until you ready
for me.” (page 77). The fence is very symbolic
in this situation. It symbolizes his
insecurity about death and how he has put up
these imaginary fences for protection. It
leaves us with a very clear image of this
agressive man who fears nothing in life,
except death.
Rose’s childhood was also filled with
uncertainity. Her father was a drifter who
went from place to place starting a new family
every where he went, so that it got to the
point where each of her step brothers and
sisters had a different mother. This was the
basis for her insecurity and possessiveness of
her own family. In her case also, the fence
was symbolic. It stood for her need to hold on
to her husband, son, and her comfortable home
life. For both Troy and Rose, the turning
point in their lives comes when Rose is
informed about the existence of another woman
in Troy’s life. Even Troy’s friend, Bono,
tries to warn Troy about the risk he is taking
by seeing this other woman. Bono tries to
explain Rose’s personality to Troy by saying,
“Some people build fences to keep people
out…and other people build fences to keep
people in. Rose wants to hold on to you all.

she loves you.” (page 61). She wants to hold
on to the happy and loving family life she
has, and the fence metaphorically illustrates
a way of holding on.

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In the case of both the characters, Rose
and Troy, what influences their attitudes is
the way they were in their past. Troy was
refused the chance to join the baseball team
in his youth, so he feels that his son also
should not get the opportunity. Troy was
ignored by his father when he was young, so
instead of ignoring his son, Troy is overly
critical of him. He is critical to the point
of inciting an act of disrespect from Cory.

Cory has reached the point where he even has
the audacity to say to his father, “I ain’t
got say excuse me to you. You don’t count
around here no more.” Rose has a different
outlook of life. She wants the chance to have
a family to take care of and to protect. She
has observed the effects of prejudices in her
life too, but she changes with the times. She
is not like Troy who does not realize that the
world is advancing around him.
It’s not exactly the happiest of endings, but
the characters get what they want. Troy gets death
when he is ready for it and while he is doing what
he loves best, swinging a baseball bat. Rose still
has a chance at a family life. She gets the chance
to bring up her step daughter, Raynell, in the way
she wants. She has someone to protect and take care
of, finally. The characters in the play still have
their fences up, even towards the end, but the hope
and the potential is discernible in the reunion of
the family. We can see the prospect of the fences
coming down bit by bit, and the family’s
insecurities disappearing, one by one.