On the Fence for Change
In August Wilson’s Fences, Troy Maxson is a man that prides himself in all of his accomplishments in life, though he had very rough upbringing. The story takes place in the Hill District of Pittsburg where Troy and his family live as part of the growing middle class of African-Americans in the 1950’s. This time in history was the beginning of the Civil Rights movements for African-Americans. While it greatly affected the entire African-American population as a whole, it also strongly affected those who were in their older age. Troy is in his fifties with his mind set on how things should be in the world around him based off of the era he grew up in. He is an advocate for change, but at the same time, he is refusing to accept it.
The 1950’s marked the beginning of extreme changes in American history. Segregation was a big issue during these times. According to Patricia McKissack, “School desegregation was the major domestic political issue between 1955 and 1960.”(187) However, it did not stop at just schools being desegregated. African-Americans wanted their rights to other things as well. Some being of the older generation that came of age during unequal rights and discrimination, which meant that they had no driving rights, were limited to areas in which they could live, and along with living restrictions, there were job restrictions, too. (McKissack 187) This meant they would have to survive off of a low-income job. In Fences, Troy is a garbage man. However, even though he is in the lower class, he still prides himself because he made it farther in life than his own father. This later poses a problem when Troy’s son, Cory, gets an invitation to follow his dreams by being recruited for a college football team.
Troy was a great athlete. According to Bono, “Ain’t but two men ever played baseball as good as you.” (Wilson 149) When the major leagues were finally integrated, Troy was a bit too old to participate in them. This causes him to have some frustration and resentment towards the sport. When his son Cory gets recruited by a college football team, Troy expresses what can be viewed as jealousy. He never got to pursue his dreams of being a star athlete and he does not want his son to, either. Though, he has a few more reasons than that. Troy also expresses that he believes they will still discriminate against Cory because of the color of his skin. Events in which the laws are changed for the younger generations can make change very difficult for those who are past the age to make something of themselves. To them, it is not fair that they did not have the same opportunities. However, that does not mean that they should discourage the future generations from having big dreams that they can actually follow now. This is reflected in Fences by Troy’s reaction to Cory being offered the opportunity to make