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In the play Fences, by August Wilson, a fence represents protection and incomplete or broken relationships. Through the fence, Wilson is trying to show that even things that were once perfect and have gone awry can still be rebuilt.
One way Wilson uses the fence is to represent protection and love. A fence usually keeps things in that people want and separates it from the things that they don’t want. A fence also is a separation between two or more objects or events. In the beginning of the play, the fence is broken which represents that the family has problems with their relationship to each other. Troy and Cory have different points of view. Cory wants to play football and in order for him to play at his school, he decides to stop working everyday and only work on the weekends. Troy does not agree and says that Cory is “a bigger fool” than he thought and that he needs to get his job back at the A&P (36). If Cory can’t both work and play football, he is told that he will have to quit the football team. Troy said this to Cory because he does not want Cory to become a garbage man like he is or become unemployed. Troy uses the word “fool” because he tried to do the same thing when he was young. Troy is trying to help Cory understand that he doesn’t want him to live the same way he had to. He does this for Cory’s own good, but Cory does not realize this. Cory feels that his father is just trying to ruin his life and not let him have fun. This relates to the fence because even though Troy wants to fix the fence and keep it in good shape, it will always become broken again. This means that even though Troy may want something to happen a certain way, it may not always happen that way. At this time in the play, the fence is bent and broken just like Troy and Cory’s relationship.
Wilson also uses the fence to represent incomplete relationships. Troy has been cheating on Rose and causes their relationship to become incomplete. During this time, the fence is broken and bent just like their relationship. Troy has been ignoring Rose and he doesn’t tell her that he was seeing someone else until he made the other person pregnant. Overall, Troy has been causing his relationship with Rose to bend and break. Rose feels that the only real person who cares and would “be a fence around” her every day is Jesus (21). She feels that because Troy isn’t being good to her, that the only person who can be a barrier to all the bad things is Jesus. Troy’s relationship with Cory is also broken because he is also ignoring Cory and not being there when he needs him.
Not only does the fence represent broken relationships, but it also represents the regrowth of relationships. Rose and Troy have a broken relationship because Troy cheated on her and had a baby with someone else. When Troy cheats on Rose, he tries to hide it from her, but when he finds out he is having a baby with the other person, he tells her. Rose, however, does not divorce Troy because if she did, most likely she would be living on the streets. She would be living on the streets because she would not have anybody to support her and she would have no income. Also, she believes that if she hadn’t married Troy, she could have been in an abusive relationship. Rose says that she has known people who have married someone who is abusive and even though Troy isn’t the best husband, she realizes that he is also not the worst. When the baby, Raynell, is born, her mother dies in labor. Troy then asks Rose if she would raise the child with him. When Rose accepts, she tells Troy, “This child got a mother. But you a womanless man” (79). This means that she is not going to forgive Troy anymore and she will start to hold things against him. It also means that she is going to always forgive and take care of Raynell. Troy fixes the fence when Raynell was born. Raynell brought Rose peace. Raynell made Rose feel like a person and that she was loved. It also helped her have the feelings that she never had with Troy. When Raynell was looking at her garden, she wondered why it hadn’t grown yet. Rose tells her that she needs to wait and have patience, but that she knows it will grow eventually. Rose, herself, had to be patient with Troy in order to grow. Rose was like a seed, and Troy was like the sun. A little bit of sun helps a seed grow, but with no water and/or too much sunlight, the seed will not grow. When Raynell was born, she was like the rain to a flower; without water, a plant cannot grow. Raynell helped Rose grow and caused Troy to stop criticizing and stopping Rose from doing things. This was when the fence was complete. Because Raynell was born, Rose had someone who she could talk to and who would truly listen to her. This represents the fence because in the beginning, relationships were broken and Rose felt as if she was just “there” and had no true purpose, but when Raynell was born, Rose was able to talk and realize that she did have a purpose.
Overall, the fence represented growth, destruction, and regrowth. When the fence was broken and bent, the relationships were broken and bent. The relationships also were not complete. However, when the fence was complete, the relationships were peaceful, complete, and they brought out the best in people. In the end, Wilson is successful in reminding the audience that even things that were once perfect and have gone awry can still be rebuilt.
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