Resent and Understanding
The late 1950’s and 1940’s were drastically different times for African Americans; while the color barrier in the 40’s was still strong, blacks and whites started to integrate in the 50’s. American playwright, August Wilson, sets Fences in a pre-civil rights era, and describes Troy Maxson’s tense relationship with his son Cory. In Fences, Troy’s reasons for not wanting Cory to play football are because of Troy’s unwillingness to let go of the past; this includes Troy’s experiences with his father, and Troy’s failures in baseball and in raising his first son Lyons, which conveys August Wilson’s idea that one needs understand and accept one’s past, not fight against it.
Troy’s shortcomings in the baseball world and in raising Lyons develop a stronger sense of responsibility in Troy to shape Cory’s future. When Troy and Bono talk about Jackie Robinson, his spite towards his past shows when he states, ““I done seen a hundred niggers play baseball better than Jackie Robinson. … I’m talking about if you could play ball then they ought to have let you play. Don’t care what color you were. Come telling me I come along too early…”(10).
The play “Fences” is written and published by African-American playwright August Wilson in the year 1985. Set in the 1950’s, the play uses the concept of baseball to explain Troy Maxson’s battles with the hurdles of life. The story mainly revolves around Troy’s problems in life regarding his family. His son Cory was one of his major problems here and he also had a mistress in this story which ...
Troy is resentful towards his past in baseball because he believes it is unjust that he did not make it into the major leagues just because he “came along” a couple years too early. Troy’s bitterness towards baseball leads him to hate the idea of sports in general, which leads Troy to push Cory towards a life with a steady job, not with one based on whether Cory is going to “come along” in the football world. Later in the play when Troy tells his life story to Bono, Lyons, and Rose, Troy says, “I was young and anxious to be a man. Met your mama and had you. What I do that for? Now I got to worry about feeding you and her. Got to steal three times as much… they put me in the penitentiary and locked me up for fifteen years”(52).
Because of Troy’s illegal behavior, Troy was thrown in jail for the majority of Lyons’ life, which makes Troy feel guilty for not being part Lyons’ life. In turn, Troy overcompensates for failing in raising Lyons by being overinvolved in Cory’s life. When Troy and Cory come to finally talk about Cory’s future in football, Troy states, “I don’t care where he coming from. The white man ain’t gonna let you get nowhere with that football noway. You go on and get your book-learning so you can work yourself up in that A&P … or something get you a trade. That way you have something nobody can’t take from you. You go on and learn how to put your hands to some good use. Besides hauling people’s garbage”(35).
What Troy says in this quote shows both his resentment towards the sports world and how he is overcompensating for how Troy treated Lyons. Troy is living in the past still, not realizing that the “white man” does not have as much control of the color barrier; in addition, Troy has the urge to be involved in Cory’s life, so Troy forces his mindset into Cory’s life. Troy’s guilt and bitterness causes Troy to make a visceral reaction to Cory’s fondness of sports.
The experiences that Troy encounters with his father develops an unconscious bitterness and grudge that makes Troy who he is today, and in turn puts himself upon Cory. When the topic of Troy’s past comes up with Bono, Rose, and Lyons, Troy states, “Sometimes I wish I hadn’t known my daddy. … A kid to him wasn’t nothing. All he wanted was for you to learn how to walk so he could start you to working. When it come time for eating… he ate first. If there was anything left over, that’s what you got” (50).
The last paragraph of this essay is my favorite by far, “…in their beautiful voices out of my childhood. Raymond. ” The author of this story made it so tangible the dislike Raymond Jr. had for his birth name that it felt like a true revelation when the character finally embraced it. To hear his father’s name echo as his own name and to enjoy it leaves the reader with the same sense of happiness. ...
Troy’s father raised Troy “so he could start [him] working”, not for a loving father-son relationship; in turn, Troy does not understand why his father acted so cruel towards him and his siblings. By not understanding why his father acted in such a way, Troy turns misunderstanding into hate. The hate that Troy has for his father is shown especially through how Troy describes the fight he had with his father; Troy says, “Now it was my turn to run him off. I picked up them same reins that he had used on me. I picked up them reins and commenced to whupping on him. The gal jumped up and fun off … and when my daddy turned to face me, I could see why the devil had never come to get him… cause he was the devil himself. I don’t know what happened. When I woke up, I was laying right there by the creek, and Blue… was licking my face”(52).
This fight causes Troy to be pushed even further away from understanding his father, while also gives rise to Troy’s stubbornness and lack of acceptance. Troy puts that loathing he has for his own father onto Cory when he replies to Cory, “Like you?… It’s my responsibility! … Not cause I like you! Cause it’s my duty to take care of you… “(38).
Troy’s father was not even there to take care of Troy, so Troy believes that he is treating Cory better than he was treated by making it his “duty to take care of” him; however, Troy’s hate blinds him from seeing the reality of how he is actually treating Cory. Troy unconsciously embraces aversion instead of appreciation of his father, and in turn forces Cory to quit football.
The bitterness that Troy has with his past is the reason why he is adamant about letting Cory play football. Through this relationship between Troy and Cory, Wilson shows how being stuck in one’s past can affect loved ones around you. Instead, one must achieve peace of mind through understanding one’s past, and letting go of previous failures.