Essay on Double Consciousness in August Wilson's Fences

Essay on Double Consciousness in August Wilson's Fences

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The double consciousness in Fences is representative of both double consciousnesses’ effect and the impact that it has had on the African-American community as a whole. In the play, Wilson presents to the reader a world not yet torn by the strife of racial change. However, its presence is still felt through the actions of Troy Maxson in the play as double consciousness acts both as a metaphorical fence that constrains Troy, as well as an idea that will ultimately destroy much of Troy’s personal life. In Fences, double consciousness is destructive not only because of it affects the black race as a whole, but also because it showcases how the actions of a single person can affect the people the love and cherish most.

Throughout the play, the original definition of the term by W.E.B Dubois affects Troy’s mannerisms, as well as the actions of the entire black community. Troy’s use of hyperbole is dramatically affected because he can only “[look] at [him] self through the eyes of others” (Dubois 5). In an attempt to fill out his largeness, Troy strives to look at himself from the inside, rather than having others who “[look] on in amused contempt and pity”. (Dubois 5). The public and private struggle felt by most African-Americans, including Troy, has advanced to the point where they espouse two conflicting viewpoints at times. This has led to confusion even among blacks, mainly because they do not know why they must do this. This attempt to see himself differently also drives Troy to thumb his nose at the white establishment by proving to the “white man” that he is better than they say he is. The reader can also understand that the oppression of white man factors into Troy’s decisions when dealing with his family. Troy feels that ...


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...n. Troy attempts to offer this passage as justification for his affair, but only succeeds in further angering a woman who had given her all to him. But one should not hastily judge Troy to be the sole creator of his problems. The oppression that has plagued blacks in the past— slavery, sharecropping, and Jim Crow laws— has driven blacks to feel that they must “not [let] whites of the hook” (McWhorter 14).

On the surface, double consciousness looks to be the perfect antidote for the problems that trouble the black race. However, upon closer examination, one can see that Troy’s actions throughout Fences exemplify the negative effects that are caused by double consciousness. Troy’s actions reinforce the idea that when the evils of society corrupt a man, he is not the only one who will suffer. The rest of society will suffer alongside him because of his actions.

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