The Ties That Bind: A Critical Analysis of Wilson’s Fences

The Ties That Bind: A Critical Analysis of Wilson’s Fences

What defines social existence? Some individual achievements are measured by surpassing goals or gaining financial stability. An attractive career can magnify personal independence but greatness cultivates through interaction, learning and relationships. Developing into adults and leading humanities future are today’s youth. Parental guidance requires intentional care for any strong social background and for teaching children as they grow through adolescents. But what if those innocent moments are distorted, corrupted, or taken away? What if a child witnesses the cruel punishment of a wretched father who brutally beat their son and raped their girlfriend? In Fences, written by August Wilson, the ugly side of Troy’s upbringing is shown throughout the play to bring light upon the personal struggles of Troy and the consequences it has on his family. Troy is a man with passion, who wants to lead his family, but Troy lacks the tools to focus his energies into a completely positive atmosphere; this result in Troy’s family displays a unique insight into the life and personality of Troy Maxson.

Troy’s youth is founded in lost and betrayal; his escape into man hood and a fresh beginning is halted by a fifteen-year prison sentence. Troy Maxson had a tough time growing up in a single parent home. The lack of a female role model contributes to Troy’s lack of compassion as an adult, forcing Troy to adopt the ideas of his father. Sandra Shannon writes “Troy Maxson still grapples with the effects of quitting school early to help his father farming” (Shannon 4). Instead of having a normal childhood and interacting with friends, Troy is taught at an early age to respect work. After being brutally beat and witnessing the rape of his friend, Troy runs away to the city, never to see his father again. Troy’s youth is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Troy’s dysfunctional physique. Harris-Lopez agrees, “How prison shapes Wilson’s male characters is obvious with Troy Maxson” (2). Imagine being in prison, trapped behind iron gates, and unable to taste freedom’s might! Troy is no longer able to hold his young son or be home to raise his family. This act combined with the lack of a childhood would make a man put up some serious walls and become emotionally unattached to the world. But that’s not the end! Troy is a fighter and develops a new reason to live by playing baseball.

While playing in the Negro leagues, Troy feels his chance at pro ball is overlooked because of his color. Baseball gave Troy a new kind of confidence. He probably paraded around and enjoyed his freedom for a time. But fences and hurdles defined Troy’s life. That’s when he met his wife Rose. “I fooled them, Rose. I bunted. When I found you and Cory and a halfway decent job…I was safe” (qtd. In Shannon 5). In baseball terms, Troy is a big hitter. A wild man with vibrant passion, but he fools everyone when he marries the good girl. Troy is lost in a world where he isn’t whole as a man until he found his wife and son.

In many cultures, being the first born son, Lyons is expected to adopt the ideas of his father Troy and follow in his legacy. The absence of Lyons father due to imprisonment must have caused confusion and a sense of lost in Lyons as well. He uses guilt and manipulation tactics to con money from his father during the play. A trait also displayed by Troy while dealing with his brother Gabriel’s finances. Troy’s response to Lyons visit is “What you come “Hey, Popping” me for?” (Wilson 1524). Probably feeling burned by his son Lyons for not paying him back on occasion, Troy gives the impression he is frustrated because Lyons doesn’t following his ideas and beliefs. “I ain’t got no extra money…I can’t afford to be giving you every payday” (Wilson 1526). Troy is letting his thirty-four year old son take responsibility by refusing to enable him. The fact that he helps Lyons out for so long shows that Troy cares for his children. And just like Troy, Lyons is a dreamer developing a taste and a passion for music. The path of Lyons ultimately takes him to prison completing the circle from father to son. This story doesn’t just show a man constantly at fault, it shows a transition through life and tells a story through Troy’s kids.

All throughout Troy’s life, he aspires to be somebody, a fighter, a tough guy, also seen through his son Cory. Troy wants to teach his son that nothing comes easy. Although his idea is for Cory to get a good education, the fact that Cory lies to Troy shows his lack of respect to his father. His dream isn’t seen as important because of Troy’s failure in his own dreams and his lack of faith in a sports career in a predominately white influential society. Cory’s consequences for being dishonest with his father were that he could not play football. A child without discipline could develop into a child without boundaries who think they can do what they want. Cory Maxson, the middle child, is compared to his father in the play and even though they often butted heads, Cory grows to develop more of Troy’s characteristics than his other two children. Cory ultimately benefits from growing up with his father’s constant present during his adolescence. “Troy’s front yard is literally turned into a battleground during his confrontations with his younger son Cory” (Kopice 5). A culmination of all of Troy’s anger and frustration is seen here but it is a final way of telling Cory he will have to fight for what he earns. Cory becomes a leader in the United States Marines, instilling a sense of pride in him that was definitely noticeable in his father. A beautiful scene at the end of Act II Scene I shows Troy punishing Cory. Cory was young brash and arrogant, a seven-teen year old sports prodigy like Tory coming into his own like a flower in bloom that needs nourishment. Troy keeps Cory’s football equipment despite Cory being unable to continue a football career. “That’s strike one. Don’t you strike out!” was Troy’s lesson to Cory, his understanding, his love (Wilson 1544).

The absence of a mother along with the pressures of being a father made Troy’s inappropriate relationship result in an illegitimate daughter. But Reynell’s name doesn’t just mean “Rey of hope;” she is Troy’s possibility for redemption. Turning away from his pride and his past, having a daughter humbles a man. It’s the kind of thing that only fathers can understand. The pride of a father can peel away from a man when he has pride in a daughter, his woman, instead of himself. Now this circle to is complete and his journey ends where it ultimately begins. Finally Raynell Maxson, the product of Troy’s infidelity and his only daughter, represents Troy’s redemption and his hope for the future.

The protagonist in Fences, Troy, is at times difficult to like but at times he is courageous and shows a fleeting sense of integrity. That’s what makes Troy a relatable character to anyone who has struggles or faults. Troy means well and he speaks his mind. He isn’t afraid of what others may say or think about him. His wife obviously respects him to deal with everything she has endured and still take in Troy’s daughter. Troy’s two sons also share admirable qualities while still struggling to find their selves much like their father has.

Unfortunately the final scene doesn’t have a lot of insight into what transpired over the past seven years but you can tell Troy impacted each of his three children lives. Lyons fell into trouble but he knew how to get himself out because Troy was incarcerated while he was growing up. Cory became like his father stubborn towards the end but ultimately pushed the boundaries of limitations and expectations that the white men had for him, just like his father did in acquiring the driving job and standing up for himself. Troy’s youngest child, Raynell, represents the innocence of his childhood and the hope for the future possibilities that everyone has. The two youngest siblings sing in their daddy’s old song which shows the significant role Troy played in raising his children. “Together they sing about Troy’s boyhood dog, Old Blue” (Wessling 2). Troy Maxson loves his dad and wishes things could have been more beautiful between them like his old pup, the last connection Troy has to his childhood. Wessling writes “The song is a cultural legacy that bridges the generations, a legacy created by Troy’s father and passed on through Troy to Cory and Raynell” (2). Troys children love him to; nobody else can be there dad. Troy wasn’t a perfect father but he was a father none the less and he did the best he could with what he had at the time. The story really captures life, reality, honesty struggles, and hardships. It evokes the reader to feel encouraged and that they are not alone.

Loved ones, their encouragement, and their daily involvement in their children’s lives help to teach that child how to live, love, and interact in society. This story opens peoples eyes to insecurity and courage. To fight whether it is living our dreams like Lyons, overcoming parental shadows like Cory or hoping for the future like Reynell. A more beautiful side of Fences can be appreciated as the life and legacy of a man dealt a short hand could impact a family so apparently. Isn’t that the point, greatness isn’t just born through an individual’s successes but that learning all starts through someone else. One of the strongest relationships will always be the bond with a child. Troy’s story shows those people that are more fortunate to take advantage of the world we live in today. The three kids grew up in different stages of Troy’s life thus attributing to their various characteristics, mimicking their father and forever linking them together in “the ties that bind”

Works Cited
Koprince, Susan. “Baseball as history and myth in August Wilson’s:Fences”. African American Review.40.2(2006):1-10.Literature Research Center.Web.31 May 2012.

Shannon, Sandra G. “The Good Christian’s Come and Gone: the shifting role of Christianity in Autgust Wilson Plays”. Contemporary Literature Criticism.118(1999):1-11.Literary Research Center.Web.31 May 2012.

Harris-Lopez, Trudier. “The Necessary Binding: Prison Experiences in Three August Wilson Plays”.Drama Criticism.31.(2002)1-11.Library Research Center.Web.31 May 2012.

Wilson, August.Fences.The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature.9thed.Ed.Michael Meyer.Boston:Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2012.1518-1563.Print.03 June 2012.

Wessling, Joseph. “Wilson’s Fences”.Contemporary Literary Criticism.222(2006)1-4.Library Research Center.Web.31 May 2012.