“We black men have a hard enough time in our own struggle for justice, and already have enough enemies as it is, to make the drastic mistake of attacking each other and adding more weight to an already unbearable load. ” (Malcolm X) African American men through time have struggled for a power that is out of their reach because others hold the power. August Wilson’s Fences displays a Psychological/Psychoanalytic approach by illuminating the inherent injustice in America’s treatment of African American males and the ways in which this racism affects and invades the societal units – the family.
The conventional husband-wife and father-son conflicts are subservient to the plays discussion of racism. Fences is a drama that focuses on the characteristics of black life in a small neighbor in 1957 and the strains of society of the Maxson family. The play shows how the main character struggles against his oppressive past and his present surroundings, and when he tries to regain the power in his life, he fails, and ends up bringing down other with him.
The protagonist, Troy Maxson is a restless trash-collector and former baseball player for the Negro League.
In the play, Fences, Troy’s past dictates the kind of man he is today. His father, an abusive unsuccessful sharecropper, has had a major impact on Troy. Troy states, “But I’ll say this for him…he felt a responsibility toward us. ” (1310; all page references are to class text Literature an Introduction to Reading and Writing, 5th ed. ) This comment is the one good thing that Troy has to say about his father. Despite his father’s meanness, he did feel a sense of duty toward his family. After an incident with his father beating him unconscious, Troy left home at the age of fourteen (Wilson 1311).
Leaving the oppressive rule of his father should have brought Troy a feeling of freedom, but Troy found the exact opposite. Troy found that there were no jobs or places for blacks to live so he began stealing to survive. He met a woman and got her pregnant with his first son. Lyons. The responsibility weighed on him because now he had two more mouths to feed (Wilson 1311). To take care of his family, he continued to steal which ended him jail for fifteen years and this is where he learned to play baseball. Troy Maxson was a great baseball player, at least according to his friend Bono.
Although he played brilliantly for the “Negro Leagues”, by the time that blacks were allowed into the Major League Troy was too old. In Troy’s self-created illusion, he believes that he would have made it to the Major League if it were not for the color of his skin (Wilson 1292). Because he never earned the recognition or the money, which he felt he deserved, the discussion of professional sports will often send him into a tirade. In a discussion with Bono and Rose concerning Cory recruitment by a college football team, Troy states, “Jackie Robinson wasn’t nobody.
I’m talking about if you could play ball then they ought to have let you play. Don’t care what color you were. ” (1. 1. 78). Troy points out the blatant racism that kept him from a career in the major leagues. He was just as good, if not better, than many of the white players, and yet he did not get a shot. Troy, now fifty-three, has long retired from baseball; he makes a living for himself and his family as a garbage man, and nurses his well-earned bitterness. His life has been warped by white racism, and in turn, Troy is helpless to keep himself from warping his son’s life.
Because of the racism, Troy has suffered in life and the tumultuous relationship with his father, Troy tries to control both is son’s lives. Troy has a low expectation of what black men can do with their lives, and is holding his sons back from obtaining successes that Troy could only dream about obtaining. Lyons is ambitious talented jazz musician. Lyons jazz playing appears to Troy as an unconventional and foolish occupation. In the beginning of Fences, Lyons comes to Troy to borrow ten dollars because he girlfriend Bonnie has a job working at the hospital.
In Troy’s mind, Lyon is failing in his duty as a man by not taking care of his woman. Troy lectures Lyons, “I done learned my mistakes and learned to do what’s right it. You still trying to get something for nothing. Life don’t owe you nothing. You owe it to yourself. ” (1. 1. 145). The quotation is an example of how Troy feels the black man will never amount to anything in the “white man’s world”. He also tries to control his son, Cory’s future because he see that he is going down the same road the Troy was on and was rejected from.
Troy tells his wife Rose “The white man ain’t gonna let him get nowhere with the football. ” (1. 1. 65). Through racial discrimination is still a huge problem in America during the 50s, things have gotten more equal, especially in the world of sports. Troy however is too stubborn and bitter to admit there has been some progress. Troy is now a fifty-three year old African American male who works for the sanitation department. Troy works to gain power as a man by changing his job situation. Troy goes to his boss, Mr. Rand and asks him “Why? Why you got white mens driving and the colored lifting? ” (1. 1. 10).
Troy sees this as oppression, though he knows that he has a job that is awarded to both white and black men, the racial line is till carefully drawn. He is determined to cross this line because he cannot handle any racial prejudices in his life. Troy continues to recount his fight with his boss to his long-time friend, Bono. Troy states, “You think only white fellows got sense enough to drive a truck. That ain’t no paper job! ” (1. 1. 10). Troy feels that blacks are good enough to be drivers; he assumes that they would not be able to handle “paper” or office jobs.
This is another example of how racism is so entrenched that black people are a little racist against themselves. Troy’s characters sought after this job in order to gain back some of the power in his life, even though he does not have a license to drive. He is finally able to prove to himself and the people around him that he is worthy and just as good as any other man, including white men. As a father, Troy feels obligated to provide the necessities of life, but he seems to think his duties end there.
During a discussion between Cory and Troy, when Cory asked he father, “How come you never liked me? ” Troy replies, “You live in my house…sleep your behind on my bedclothes…fill you belly up with my food…cause you my son. You my flesh and blood. Not cause I like you? Cause it’s my duty to take care you. ” (1. 3. 107). It is clear the legacy of racism threatens to take another generation. However, he was unable to provide for his family alone and had to use the tragic injuries of his brother, Gabriel, a World War II veteran.
Troy uses this money to pay for his house. He says, “If my brother didn’t have that metal plate in his head…I wouldn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. And I’m fifty-three years old. ” (1. 2. 64). He feels weighed down by the guilt of using his brother’s destruction as a way to jumpstart his own life. He feels like the only reason he has anything is the fact that his brother life was ruined. Through he has a loving relationship with his wife Rose, he still strays and finds a woman with which he feels he can be a different man.
He uses this affair as a way to escape from the responsibility of his life and the constant reminders of his shortcomings as a man. When trying to explain why he had the affair he tells Rose, “I can step out of this house and get away from the pressures and problems…be a different man. I ain’t got to wonder how I’m gonna pay the bills or get the roof fixed. I can just be a part of myself that I ain’t never been. ” (2. 1. 98). His affairs results in a baby, and he needs Rose to help him, after his mistress, Alberta, died. Rose accepts the responsibility of raising this child, but she has cut off all emotion bonds with Troy.
Rose tells him “I’ll take care of you baby for you…’cause… like you say…she’s innocent…and you can’t visit the sins of the father upon the child. From right now…this child got a mother. But you a womanless man. ” (2. 3. 4). It is with this act that Troy loses more of his control and finds himself even more emasculated than before. Troy was unable to see that he did have control over one aspect of his life, yet he was too worried about proving his worth to others and to himself, that he proved his unworthiness to his own wife.
Troy is a resentful victim of his life’s circumstances, a man who has become fenced in from happiness by the conviction that he was never paid what he was owed in any right: not from his father, not from his former baseball career, not from his employers, and not from his family. Troy tried to take back the power that was taken from him by demanding that his loved ones live practical, responsible lives while he has the freedom to have an affair, rebel against racist practices of his employers by protesting the limitation of black workers as lifters not drivers on the trash trucks.
Troy refuses to see life in any presented to him but the way he perceives events in his own head. Eventually, Troy’s death leaves many negative attributes an inheritance for his family to sort out and accept. Fences I. INTRODUCTION (4-6 sentences) A. Quote B. Thesis Sentence–The play illuminate the inherent injustice in the America’s treatment of black men and the ways in which this racism affects and invades the family. 1. The conflicts in the play show has racism affected the family. 2. Set in 1957 after World War II when blacks still are fighting for power
3. Shows how the characters struggle against his oppressive past and present, and when he tries to regain power he fails and brings down others around him. II. BODY (minimum of three paragraphs) A. 1st Supporting Paragraph (8-12 sentences) 1. Topic Sentence–Troy’s past dictates the kind of man he is today a. Subject – The ways he was raised b. Focus – why he left home and what he did when he left home 2. 1st Subtopic Sentence–His father was an abusive unsuccessful sharecropper 2nd Subtopic Sentence–left home at an early age and landed in jail.
3. Concluding Sentence– uneducated black man did what he had to do to serve. B. 2nd Supporting Paragraph (8-12 sentences) 1. Topic Sentence–Troy’s injustice dealing with his career a. Subject–Lost opportunity due to racism towards blacks in sports b. Focus– why is lost his opportunity to be the man he thought he was supposed to be and how he handles it 2. 1st Subtopic Sentence– during that time blacks were only allowed to play in the Negro League. 2nd Subtopic Sentence–Any talk about sports through Troy into a tirade. 3.
Concluding Sentence–Because of the oppression that was placed on him, it causes he to oppress others dreams C. 3rd Supporting Paragraph (8-12 sentences) 1. Topic Sentence–The affect his past has on him and sons a. Subject–Troy’s low expectation for options that the black man has in a career b. Focus–He holds his sons back from realizing their dreams 2. 1st Subtopic Sentence–Thinks he son Lyon is wasting his life by not accepting a job that is thought as acceptable in the white man world 2nd Subtopic Sentence–Does not want his son Cory to follow in footsteps as an athlete because of how he was treated.
3. Concluding Sentence–Troy is too stubborn and bitter to admit there have been changes since his time concerning treatment of black athletes D. 4th Supporting Paragraph (8-12 sentences) 1. Topic Sentence–His job and racism a. Subject–Whites has the better job in the sanitation department b. Focus–Tries to change his job situation 2. 1st Subtopic Sentence–Troy goes to his boss and confronts him about the racism at work 2nd Subtopic Sentence–Troy himself is racist toward other blacks 3. Concluding Sentence–Troy is able to prove to himself and family that is worthy and as a good as any white man.
E. 5th Supporting Paragraph (8-12 sentences) 1. Topic Sentence–Responsibilities as a father a. Subject–Troy believes that a father is only supposed to provide for his family b. Focus–how he goes about it 2. 1st Subtopic Sentence–Tells he son that he doesn’t have to love him he just has to make sure that he has a roof over his head 2nd Subtopic Sentence–Provides for his family by using his brother 3. Concluding Sentence– F. 5th Supporting Paragraph (8-12 sentences) 1. Topic Sentence–The effect it has on him relationship with his wifea. Subject–has an affair b.
Focus–blames his responsibilities on his affair 2. 1st Subtopic Sentence–Tells his wife that he now choice but to cheat because of the things he has to do to make a life for his family 2nd Subtopic Sentence–Loses he wife 3. Concluding Sentence–is further emasculated III. CONCLUSION (3-4 sentences) A. Troy is a victim of life: his father, his dead career, his job and family all play are part B. Troy tries to control his life but the decision he makes lead him to be more oppressed then he was before. He is stuck in the past and cannot move forward with his life. His death continues the cycle.