Fences: Building Walls, Breaking Barriers: An Exploration of Family Dynamics and Racial Tensions in August Wilson's “Fences” - August Wilson

American literature essay. Literary analysis of works and characters - Sykalo Evgen 2023

Fences: Building Walls, Breaking Barriers: An Exploration of Family Dynamics and Racial Tensions in August Wilson's “Fences”
August Wilson

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Fences" by August Wilson depicts the African American Maxson family in 1950s Pittsburgh in a moving way. Wilson skillfully examines the interconnected themes of family dynamics, racial tensions, and the pursuit of aspirations in the face of institutional impediments through their nuanced interactions and personal conflicts.

Family Relationships: A Precarious Structure

A microcosm representing many Black families in the years following World War II is the Maxson family. The patriarch Troy represents the struggle of a father who has experienced great adversity and is trying to provide a stable life for his family. But his own unmet expectations and brewing anger show up as an overbearing and frequently emotionally aloof presence. As a result, there is a tight and frequently violent climate in the home, stifling communication and raising emotions.

Rose, Troy's wife, is a symbol of Black women's steadfast tenacity and fortitude. Rose upholds the stability of the family with her unflinching love and support, even in the face of Troy's harshness and the pressures of society. Cory, their kid, represents the hopes and dreams of a new generation longing for independence and personal growth. A major tension in the play is the struggle between Cory's dreams and Troy's strict expectations. This struggle highlights the generational divide and the changing aspirations of African Americans in a changing society.

Handling Racial Tensions: An Continual Challenge

The lives of the family are further complicated by the fact that the play is set in the segregated United States of the 1950s. Troy's relationships are strained and his frustration is fueled by his encounters with prejudice and limited prospects. The family is forever impacted by the ongoing fight against racial injustice, which emphasizes the negative effects of social obstacles on people's goals and lives.

Constructing Barriers and Walls: A Search for Self

"Fences," the play's title, has a lot of metaphorical meaning. In a literal sense, Troy's fence serves as a symbol of his will to set boundaries and safeguard his family. The fence, however, also represents the emotional walls he builds around himself to keep him from genuinely interacting with people. These walls—both material and psychological—reflect the more significant racial and social divides that limit African Americans' opportunities in life.

In the play, breaking down these walls is a recurrent topic. Cory's pursuit of a baseball career and disobedience of his father's wishes symbolize a challenge to the status quo and a search for personal fulfillment. In a similar vein, Rose's unfailing love and forgiveness are a means of fostering family harmony and healing.

In conclusion, an eternal investigation of humanity

"Fences" is more than just a play about a particular family at a particular era. It explores topics that are universal to all people, such as love, loss, family, and the need for self-expression. It is a timeless examination of the human condition. Wilson explores the intricacies of Black family dynamics and the long-lasting effects of racial injustices via its moving characters and potent narrative. Through addressing the internal and external obstacles encountered by the Maxson family, "Fences" forces us to consider universal queries concerning identity, inclusion, and the quest for a purposeful existence.