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Challenges faced by fathers in August Wilson’s play Fences

Feb 24, 2023 | 0 comments

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Feb 24, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments


Fences is a play that was written by the 1950’s famed writer Wilson August. The play revolves around a middle aged father who is in the day to day struggle of providing for his own family. Day to day, the father faces challenges of work and lack of sufficient resources to provide for his own children. Troy in the past was an excellent baseball player, one whom it is implied would have been great had he been of a different race. The play is set in an era when the African American was not considered so successful. Therefore, even though his talent would have brought him fame and fortune in the major leagues, he does not get the chance.

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Troy during the middle of the play begins to have an affair which results in the birth of his daughter Raynell. Alberta, his lover however dies during child birth and Troy’s wife opts to adopt the happy girl. Several these have arisen from this short play, with many writers especially revolving on the theme of racism. However, (Wooden 123 ) opts and analyzes a new theme, one that has been rarely considered. This is the fences that Troy has developed around his own role of fatherhood. There have been articles written on the topic of the play, which is fences. The play itself has nothing to do with actual fences which are not even mentioned in the play. However, fences seems to be a symbolic topic with regard of what to expect from the play itself. However, few articles and criticisms have focused on the role of troy as a father and the challenges he encounters and limits he builds upon himself with the same role.

Role of Fatherhood in the Play

Troy and Lyon: the first encounter we have of troy as a father is in the scene when Lyon comes to borrow money from his father. The amount may seem meagre by today’s standards but $10 in that era and with the amount troy is earning as a garbage collector. During this scene we see Troy’s disapproval of the choices that Lyon has made. Even with the promise that he would return his money, Lyon is met with a resistant wall. In fact during the play, troy is quite harsh in refusing the loan. (Wooden 124) shows that this is unexpected. The son seems to think that like all fathers, his father will be delighted to give him the loan. The refusal therefore comes as a shock. It seems that troy does not believe in providing any assistance to his children. Is children are expected to struggle much in the same way as he has himself. Children are expected to find their own way in life without any assistance from their father. However, Troy is not as mean as this writer has put him out to be. Despite refusing to give the money at first, when persuaded by his wife he is more than happy to loan Lyon the money. He may have his own doubts about the payment, even doubts about the career of his own son and the decisions that he makes but he still loans him the money. This is indeed a sacrifice considering that he is not earning much himself h is struggling to make any ends meet but he makes the sacrifice on behalf on his own son as a father.

Troy and Gabriel: Gabriel is one of Troy’s sons who does not feature much in the play. In fact, we only hear of him in reference to the money for purchasing the house. Gabriel was in the military as one gathers from the play and during this time, he was severely injured and left traumatized, and he now lives at home at the care of his own parents. Gabriel received some money from the military in lieu of his injury. The money which is mentioned in the first act was what was used to purchase the house which the family lives in. while (Wooden 124) states that the purchase of the house was indeed a selfish move. He suggests that the money could have been used for treatment of Gabriel or simply in the interest of Gabriel. However, it is clear that Troy indeed cares for his own son, because he does not blow the money on cars or luxuries for himself but instead purchases a home ensuring his so care for his whole family.

Troy and Cory: this is the most explored fatherhood relationship in the play. Cory is talented in baseball, perhaps even more than his own father. Cory has a dream to pursue a career in sports. However, his father vehemently refuses to give him that chance to even start a career. It is to be remembered that the only baseball troy was able to play was while in prison. The problem therefore comes when his son is completely set I undertaking and making a career out of his own talent. The father and son, have a major argument with the father completely refusing to bulge in his decision. Since he is inconsistent, perhaps even using hostile language in his anger, Troy ends up throwing out his own son. According to (Wooden 123) an ideal father would support his son despite the personal feelings that he has against his sons choices. In supporting him, he would ensure that his own son has a secure environment through which he can explore his goals and desires. Refusing to support his own and ultimately throwing him out is indeed the biggest betrayal of troy.

However, this may not be exactly true. Troy is not refusing because of personal feelings, he is not jealous of his son as many others have suggested. In the past when troy realized he had talent, he attempted to take part in baseball professionally. He sort out teams and perhaps attempted to show off what he had, that is talent. However, all he received was hatred and racism because of the color of his skin. Simply because he was black, he had some negative experiences in that world. It is for his reason that he tells his best friend, he will not allow his son to enter the world of baseball. He is afraid of the hatred his sign will encounter in the pursuit of a career in sport. Discrimination will not occur because he lacks talent or is short of charisma but simply because he is black. Therefore, even though he is proud of his son, he would rather lose him than allow him to enter a world where his protection will not be sufficient. He does all this for the good of his son.

Troy and Raynell: Raynell is the daughter of Troy, a product of the affair he had with Alberta. The young girl is orphaned during birth. In itself, the act of adultery as per (Wooden 125) shows a weakness in his role of fatherhood. He also seems to be unaware of the pregnancy until he is informed of the birth of his own daughter. He also does not seem to be psychologically prepared for his role as a father. He has not planned how the young girl will fit into the family. It is only when his wife offers that he accepts to take her own as his daughter and that of Rose. However, this writer seems to completely ignore the final scene where Raynelle is seen hopping and prancing around like a content, happy little girl who has no worry in anything. This means that he has received sufficient attention, love and care from Troy in the seven years preceding his death.


(Wooden 123) seems bent on portraying Troy as a poor father, who not only lacks in resources but also in his own ability to sufficiently care for his children. He seems to imagine that Troy is lacking in the emotions that make an ideal father. However, it can be seen that all of Troy’s actions are designed to support and show love for his children. In fact at the final scene during his funeral, his wife carefully states that he may have been stubborn and bullheaded but despite it all he was a man who loved his son. Troy therefore may have been poor in expressing himself, but he is indeed a good father in the standards of society.

Work Cited

Wooden, Isaiah M. “Fences (review).” Theatre Journal. 63.1 (2011): 123-125

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