Fences by August Wilson

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In Fences, August Wilson introduces an African American family whose life is based around a fence. In the dirt yard of the Maxson’s house, many relationships come to blossom and wither here. The main character, Troy Maxson, prevents anyone from intruding into his life by surrounding himself around a literal and metaphorical fence that affects his relationships with his wife, son, and mortality.
Throughout the play, readers see an incomplete fence which symbolizes Rose (Troy’s wife) and Troy’s drifting relationship. Rose wants Troy and Cory to build a fence to keep her loved ones protected. This is evident when Rose is seen singing the church hymn, “Jesus, be a fence all around me every day. Jesus, I want you to protect me as I travel on my way” (I. ii). This insinuates the fact that Rose wants to keep her family close. Rose and Troy’s relationship seemed to be breaking down after eighteen years and the fence may have also been a way to keep Troy in Rose’s life. Yet, Troy has been in no rush to finish the fence. He sees it as some sort of confinement. Fences contain a lot of barriers that Troy tries to keep down; one barrier being his marriage. Troy claims that he has so much love for Rose, but readers see that exclusive relationships makes him feel caged in. He keeps the fence unfinished because he knows that if he finishes it than it will symbolize the end of his escape to his mistress, Alberta. Troy’s affair builds a fence that separates his marriage causing his actions to affect Rose by caging her in with a daughter that is not hers: “From right now . . . this child got a mother. But you a womanless man.” Rose tried to use a fence of divine power to keep her family protected. Troy neglected this by committing adultery, leavi...

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... he cannot really escape Death. This closeness to death refines him. When Troy realizes that Death is getting closer to his home, he prepares for the fight. In the end, his weak barrier is broken down by Death and he perishes.
Wilson does a creative job by using the fence metaphorically and literally. The fence was supposed to represent protection and family ties for the Maxson family. However, Troy’s past has left him with many scars. As he continues to make decisions for Rose and Cory, the layers of paint begin to strip away, revealing Troy’s failings to all, even to Death. After Troy’s failings become obvious to readers, the fences throughout the play begin to take form. The literal fence becomes a symbol that seals up the whole play. Readers see how if one continues to fence their loved ones out then eventually they will be left alone with their worse fear.

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