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August Wilson's "Fences" Intro

Summer Reading Project : "Fences" by August Wilson
by

Carolyn Herman

on 31 December 2012

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Transcript of August Wilson's "Fences" Intro

1.) Race
2.) Family
3.)Hopes & Dreams
4.) Men & Masculinity
5.) Death Many of the male characters in the play define themselves by the actions of their fathers or their own perceptions of masculinity. 4.) Men & Masculinity
What does it Mean To Be A MAN!!!? Five Major Themes 1.) Race Most of the novel takes place in the 1950s. All the characters in the play are African American, and they dealt with racism on a daily basis. Throughout the play, Troy struggles to fulfill his role as father to his children and husband to his wife. 2.) Family
and
Living up to Expectations Much of the play centers on either regretting lost dreams, fearing the dreams of those around you, or chasing/losing new ones. 3.) Hopes & Dreams From the physical fence Troy is building in the yard to the color barrier to the rift growing between Troy and his loved ones, much of the play is about boundaries keeping people out or in. 5.) Barriers and Boundaries Fences is a part of August Wilson’s ten-play cycle that explores the African-American experience in the twentieth century.


“I’m taking each decade and looking at one of the most important questions that blacks confronted in that decade and writing a play about it. … Put them all together and you have a history.” The Century Cycle Troy’s values are rooted in his sense of responsibility. He carries out his responsibilities diligently and he expects others to fulfill their responsibilities to him. As he tells Cory, “Mr. Rand don’t give me my money come payday cause he likes me. He gives me cause he owe me.”

This emphasis on responsibility may work well for Troy in the workplace, but it fails him at home. Responsibility displaces love as the most important family value for Troy. Troy explains to Cory why he provides for him: “… cause you my son. You my flesh and blood. Not ‘cause I like you! Cause it’s my duty to take care of you. I owe a responsibility to you! ... I ain’t got to like you.” Troy and Responsibility Much of Troy’s hope derives from his bolstering of himself and his low self-esteem through self-mythologizing.

He draws on the Bible to recreate himself as a man of mythical or Biblical proportions. He tells of wrestling with Death, which recalls Jacob’s wrestling with an angel. He fights off Death for three days and three nights; as a result, he has learned to “be ever vigilant.”

Troy wants to give himself grandeur, power, and a sense of immortality.

He wants those around him to admire him the way fans once admired him. Troy and Self-Mythologizing
Troy’s first name suggests the legendary city of Troy (from Homer’s Iliad) – and Fences is about the fall of Troy Maxson. His surname, Maxson, is an amalgamation of Mason and Dixon, i.e., the Mason-Dixon line, which separated the slave states from the free states. Troy was raised in the South, served a lengthy prison sentence, and lived subsequent years in the North.

Troy’s life has been filled with hope and disappointment. He was an outstanding baseball player in prison, but his professional career was disappointing because of the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Troy Maxson Frustrated by his lack of direction, his mother threw him out of the house. Wilson enlisted in the army, but spent only one year in active service before returning to Pittsburgh to live in a boarding house.

He began writing poetry, but did not have much of an impact as a poet.

In 1969, Wilson, with playwright and teacher Rob Penny, founded Black Horizons on the Hill, a black activist theater company. Wilson continued …
“My concern was the idea of missed possibilities. Music and sports were the traditional inroads for blacks, and in both Ma Rainey and Fences, with both Levee and Troy, even those inroads fail.”

– August Wilson

In total, Wilson won two Pulitzer Prizes and seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, and he has received twenty-three honorary degrees. Wilson continued … Troy says he was born with “two strikes” against him.” What are those two strikes? Poverty? Being African American in a racist culture? Being abandoned by his mother and being raised by an abusive father? Troy uses baseball as a metaphor throughout the play. Baseball not only gives his life direction, but it also gives him a vocabulary for self-expression. Although Troy may be illiterate, his use of baseball imagery is at times poetic and always expressive. Troy and Baseball 1957 World Series
The opening of Fences contrasts the European immigrant experience with that of the descendants of African slaves. By 1957, the time of the play, those early twentieth-century European immigrants were full participants in the American Dream and had contributed to making the 1950s a decade during which life seemed “rich, full, and flourishing.” Fences – Opening Stage Directions Troy’s values are rooted in his sense of responsibility. He carries out his responsibilities diligently and he expects others to fulfill their responsibilities to him. As he tells Cory, “Mr. Rand don’t give me my money come payday cause he likes me. He gives me cause he owe me.”

This emphasis on responsibility may work well for Troy in the workplace, but it fails him at home. Responsibility displaces love as the most important family value for Troy. “It’s my duty to take care of you. I owe a responsibility to you! ... I ain’t got to like you.” Troy and Responsibility
“My concern was the idea of missed possibilities. Music and sports were the traditional inroads for blacks, and in both Ma Rainey and Fences, with both Levee and Troy, even those inroads fail.”

– August Wilson Wilson completed the cycle, but the plays were not written in chronological order.

1900s ― Gem of the Ocean (2003)
1910s ― Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1988)
1920s ― Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1985), set in Chicago
1930s ― The Piano Lesson (1990)
1940s ― Seven Guitars (1995)
1950s ― Fences (1987)
1960s ― Two Trains Running (1991)
1970s ― Jitney (1982)
1980s ― King Hedley II (1999)
1990s ― Radio Golf (2005) Century Cycle continued … Fences is a play about an African-American family in 1960’s Pittsburg. The father, Troy Maxon, is a former Minor League baseball player who was prevented from going pro because of race. His rise and fall is the main action of the play.

Fences is part of August Wilson’s ten-play cycle that explores the African-American experience in the twentieth century.

“I’m taking each decade and looking at one of the most important questions that blacks confronted in that decade and writing a play about it. … Put them all together and you have a history.” ~August Wilson The Century Cycle Much of Troy’s hope derives from his bolstering of himself and his low self-esteem through self-mythologizing.

He draws on the Bible to recreate himself as a man of mythical or Biblical proportions.

Troy wants to give himself grandeur, power, and a sense of immortality.

He wants those around him to admire him the way fans once admired him. Troy and Self-Mythologizing
Troy’s first name suggests the legendary city of Troy (from Homer’s Iliad) – and Fences is about the fall of Troy Maxson. His surname, Maxson, is an amalgamation of Mason and Dixon, i.e., the Mason-Dixon line, which separated the slave states from the free states. Troy was raised in the South, served a lengthy prison sentence, and lived subsequent years in the North.

Troy’s life has been filled with hope and disappointment. He was an outstanding baseball player in prison, but his professional career was disappointing because of the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Troy Maxson

In total, Wilson won two Pulitzer Prizes and seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, and he has received twenty-three honorary degrees. Wilson continued … Frustrated by his lack of direction, his mother threw him out of the house. Wilson enlisted in the army, but spent only one year in active service before returning to Pittsburgh to live in a boarding house.

He began writing poetry, but did not have much of an impact as a poet.

In 1969, Wilson, with playwright and teacher Rob Penny, founded Black Horizons on the Hill, a black activist theater company. Wilson continued … August Wilson was born in 1945 in Pittsburgh, PA, in an impoverished section known as the Hill District. He was raised in a two-room apartment without hot water or a telephone. His German father abandoned him and his African-American mother and saw Wilson rarely.

Wilson stopped going to school at the age of fifteen when a teacher falsely accused him of plagiarizing a paper on Napoleon. A voracious reader, Wilson spent his days in the local library. August Wilson Troy uses baseball as a metaphor throughout the play. Baseball not only gives his life direction, but it also gives him a vocabulary for self-expression. Although Troy may be illiterate, his use of baseball imagery is at times poetic and always expressive. Troy and Baseball Fences by August Wilson
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