Fences by August Wilson – College Essay

Fences, written by August Wilson in 1983, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning play that tells the story of Troy Maxson, a middle-aged African American man living in Pittsburgh in the 1950s. The play explores themes of racial discrimination, family, and personal responsibility.

The play begins with Troy and his friend Bono discussing the fact that Troy’s boss has refused to promote him because of his race. Troy is bitter about this and laments the fact that he has always been held back because of his skin color. This sets the stage for the central conflict of the play, which is Troy’s struggle to provide for and protect his family in a world that is often hostile to African Americans.

Troy is a complex and multidimensional character. On the one hand, he is a loving husband and father who works hard to provide for his family. On the other hand, he is also deeply flawed and has a difficult time expressing his emotions. He is prone to anger and has a tendency to be controlling and manipulative, especially when it comes to his family.

One of the major themes of Fences is the impact of racial discrimination on African Americans in the 1950s. Troy is constantly reminded of the barriers that have been placed in front of him because of his skin color, and this takes a toll on his psyche. He feels that he has been denied opportunities that were available to white people, and this fuels his resentment and anger.

Another theme of the play is the importance of family and the ways in which it can both support and hinder personal growth. Troy’s relationship with his son Cory is particularly strained, as Cory is a talented athlete who is being recruited to play football at a college, while Troy was never able to fulfill his own dreams of becoming a professional baseball player because of racial discrimination. Troy’s jealousy and resentment towards Cory’s opportunities causes a rift between the two of them, and it is only through a series of confrontations and difficult conversations that they are able to begin to understand and heal their relationship.

Ultimately, Fences is a powerful and poignant exploration of the human experience. Wilson’s writing is rich and evocative, and his characters are complex and fully realized. The play speaks to universal themes of family, personal responsibility, and the impact of societal forces on individual lives, and it remains a relevant and thought-provoking work of theatre today.