Position of Blacks as Depicted in Fences

Wilson's Fences paints a picture of a black who both rebel against white domination and suffers from frustration basically because of the lack of opportunities and economic insecurity. Though America emerged as the superpower of the world after the II World War, things had not changed much for the black population.

August Wilson (1945-2005)

The older generation represented by Troy had internalized oppression so they depend on the tools which they got in the social setting of their own times. Some changes have certainly taken place and the new generation sees life differently in the light of the changed social environment. Fences presents blacks without education due to which they are left with few choices and poorly equipped for getting through the problems of life.

The Maxson family lives in a black tenement in Pittsburg in the America of 1950s. It is in that setting the whole drama of their struggle, rebellion, frustration, conflict and predicament unfolds. The blacks in the New America are not living the one reflected in the Lincolnian definition of democracy and the Jeffersonian idea of natural rights. It is an American where the blacks are not able to enjoy the same facilities and opportunities as the whites. When the play opens, we find Troy and his friend Bono talking about the former's challenge to the company and the union about the blacks' ability to do the same easy work that whites do. Troy's rebellion and frustration set the tone of the entire play. In his old age, he is looking for his rights and his life is a story of missed opportunities. This brings to light the kind of life the Blacks are living in America. Due to the lack of education and other trainings blacks find it difficult to go for a white collar job. The entire social system based on racism is responsible for it. Troy's struggle for keeping the family together gives us insights into the life of blacks in America.

Troy lived during a time when the blacks were mostly treated as second grade citizens. Though he had the enthusiasm and energy to play in the major leagues, he was always relegated to the Negro leagues. The kind of social environment in which he grew made him internalize the oppression exercised by the ruling whites. The way he was treated blinded him to any possibility of whites giving opportunities to the blacks. The legacy he got from his father shapes him in a certain way and he tries to pass the same tools on to the new generation. The times in which his son Cory is growing up is different from that of his own. Troy is against his son's decision to play in the major leagues. He sees everything in the light of his own experience and his treatment in the hands of the whites. In a way he is right too because blacks' involvement in sports will not provide them a permanent way out of the life of economic deprivation and he is in favor of going for a job that can bring money to solve the problems of everyday life. Though this may be true, the son cannot see things from his father's point of view. The son too is right on his own part because he wants to take advantage of the changes that have taken place in the America of his own time. What lies at his root of these problems, conflicts and struggles of the blacks are the larger social system that treats blacks as degraded and inferior to the whites.

To sum up, Fences presents a picture of blacks who are deprived of many facilities and opportunities for the betterment of their life. The confinement of some blacks within the world of their limited experience is also noteworthy. The institutionalization of many of the characters towards the end of the play presents the very bleak picture. However, Raynell the innocent and independent girl symbolizes a hope for the better society in the time to come.

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