The Generational Barrier in August Wilson\'s "Fences"










The Generational Barrier in August
Wilson’s Story “Fences”

 

 

This paper will discuss why Troy
Maxson, the central character in August Wilson’s story entitled “Fences”, is in
the wrong for not letting his son go to school on a sports scholarship. The
argument will discuss, how, in the time frame Troy lived in, his son has much
more hope in reaching his goal, as troy, because of racism, did not. This will
be the central aim of this paper on the context of this tale.

     Fences
tells the story of Troy Maxson, a hard-working garbage collector living in a
northern industrial city in 1957. Troy is a great talker who entertains his
friends and family with funny stories and yarns as they congregate in his back
porch. He had been an excellent baseball player in his youth. Unfortunately, he
was prevented from playing in the major leagues because of the ban on black
athletes. By the time Jackie Robinson broke the "color barrier" in
1947, Troy was past his ball-playing prime. The experience left him bitter.
However, Troy is a responsible man who has worked very hard for his home and
family. Now his second son, Cory, a gifted athlete, wants to attend college on
a sports scholarship. Troy is strongly opposed to that idea because he claims
Cory will only end up disappointed. He feels Cory should be practical and learn
a trade so that he can support himself. As they struggle over the issue,
"fences" are erected.

     The
place where Wilson’s character Troy goes wrong is in the time frames that they
lived in. Troy seems to think that the attitude of racism in the fifties is the
same as it is in the time of his son Cory. That the “late fifties were the dawn
of the civil rights movement changed the way blacks were included in a white
dominated society”.  (Meacham p.155) and
sets the precedent for Cory to be more involved in sports, when in his father’s
time, a black playing sports in a pro league, of any kind, was out of the
question. This is the main argument against Troy because he does not realize
that the times do in fact, change. He holds a generational grudge against his
son, on one hand, but it is more about he does not want his son to be hurt like
he was when he could not fulfill his dreams due to his color.

     The
era that Wilson describes, being the late 1950s and the dawn of the civil
rights movement, enables a bitter experience of the past to clash with the
awakening hope of the future.  Troy,
distrustful of his own experience, consequently fails to understand his son\'s
aspirations.  Troy, a responsible man
belittled by an irresponsible society and its racism, needs the strength beyond
endurance to accommodate his wasted potential. 
Under the pressure, he becomes irresponsible, hurting family and
friends.  His personality conspires with
his victimization in a horrific image of the self-inflicted wound of
racism.  Many questions are raised.  With more greatness in him, Troy has more to
lose; he is bitter as a consequence and has a hard time “realizing that the
Civil Rights Movement was a force of change to be reckoned with”. (Meacham
p.116)  But with greatness him, he also
has it in him to change.  And yet he is
beaten down; he even beats himself, “Hallelujah! I can\'t taste nothing no
more!” (Wilson p.67)

     In
conclusion, we find in this analysis that Troy was in the wrong when he fights
his son when he wishes to live the dream he could not.  The Civil rights Movement was something that
his son, being young and not of his father’s generation, saw as an opening to
achieve his dreams and the changes were very real. His father lacked the faith
that he did though, and ended up, because he did not believe that anything
could change, in the wrong. Although Troy had good intentions and did not want
to see his son hurt, the argument is clear that his son was in the right, for
the Civil Rights Movement was not an abstract fantasy in his son’s mind, but
the reality that his could become the sports star that his father could not
become in his generation. This has been analysis of the book “Fences” and an
argument proving the wrong actions of the father to not be in the right.

 

Bibliography:

 

Meacham, Jon (Editor), Voices in Our
Blood: America’s Best on the Civil Rights Movement, Random House, Incorporated,
January 2001.

 

Wilson, August, Fences, New American
Library Trade,