The Main Theme of August Wilson's "Fencing"

African American playwright, August Wilson is one of six children raised by his mother and a father figure that is not always around. Wilson was born and grew up in Pittsburgh, where he attended a white neighborhood school for education. While attending the school In was accused of cheating on a school assignment, and as a result, he was removed. Nevertheless, he became active in a black power Movement which gives him a better understanding of the connection between the African American and White culture.

Based on the knowledge that he has learned he decided to become a playwright. Wilson has written many plays about his black culture and the way he grew up. Fences one of Wilson’s well-known plays showcases his background and the conditions of low-class African Americans in the 1950s. This play establishes a differently drawn rage of life based on the actions of characters, symbolism, and metaphor used to express and explain the way of life.

In Fences, Troy Maxson, the main character is a 53 years old low-class African American man who tries to give his family and friends around him a lesson about the unjust world around them. Troy is a lover of baseball. He uses baseball daily to explain different ideas and to express his feelings. He has a criminal record where he was placed in poison for a few years. While doing his time he fell in love with baseball and wanted to play on a team. After his time in poison, he wanted to join the Negro Baseball League but didn’t play because of his age and color.

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In the article “Baseball as History and Myth In August Wilson Fences” Susan Koprince talks of Baseball as “an expression of hope, democratic values and the drive for individual success”(Koprince 349). In “Fences’ ‘, Troy stated that black men in the 1950s were “born with two strikes before you came to the plate”(Wilson 69). This is to show the connection and feelings of black sports players being neglected and losing opportunities to be in the major league levels. Based on the sitting and development of Wilson’s story of the play, Koprince places Troy in three different stages of life itself. She talks about “the garden, the battlefield, and the graveyard”(Koprince 349). The action of the play took to play in Troy’s backyard where there is a garden. The garden allows Troy to feel peace for all the troubles and trials he faced throughout his life. Wilson uses the character of Troy in different situations to roll back the curtains of his days in the Negro League. He saw the true colors of poverty and racism. He works as a garbage collector to provide for his family. He complains that if it wasn’t for his mentally ill brother, he wouldn’t be getting a check from the government nor have a roof over his head. Koprince also enforces the battlefield. Troy is a hard-working man who goes out every day to work to comfort hisas family and to make them happy. In an aspect, his background and the life of Troy were all a battlefield. “ You have to guard it closely, always look for the curveball on the inside corner, don’t let none pass you, can’t afford a strike call. If you go down, you go downswing”(Wilson 69). Troy and his son Cory have many conflicts. Troy is a lover of baseball, and Corey is a lover of football. Corey wants to play football but his father isn’t in agreement with that pass of Corey’s life. Due to the challenges, Troy faced when he joined the Negro League team, he try to protect his son from ending up in the same position as him in the sports world. There is a complex relationship between these two. Troy warns Cory that if he strikes out he will put him out of the house, meaning if he doesn’t go buy his order and do as he says he should go on his own.

Baseball is a game of no equal scores. It’s either you will or you lon ose. The graveyard Koprince mentions is the life of Troy as death approaches him. The death of Troy is the losing part of his challenges. Death is going to approach all of us one day but as Troy would say, in any and everything you do in life, you have to do it with a fight, don’t give up. He was in the background playing baseball in a form of fighting death, where he made a hard swim with his bat, collapsed, and passed out. In conclusion, Koprince produced an idea of home baseball frame the strength of Wilson’s idea of Troy’s character.

In “Fences”, Wilson also shows the role and strength of a woman in a family. Rose Maxson, the wife of Troy is an African American black woman who loves and cares for her family unconditionally. Sandra Shannon’s article “The Fence the Build: August Wilson’s Deception of African American Women”, talks about the inequality and disregard of African American women. Troy and Rose have been married for eighteen long years. The way that she loves and cherishes her family, she asks Troy to build a fence in their backyard in a sign of protection of keeping them in and keeping others out. Shannon talks about the way black women were treated and still have to stand firm to play the role of a mother to their families. Wilson plays Rose in the character of his mother as a strong woman because he sees and knows the struggles she endured while he was growing up. Shannon has stated that black women are “ placed in traditional roles as wives, mother, organizer ang pillar of strength “(Shannon 2). In Fences, Troy has an affair out of his marriage and got his mistress pregnant. Rose was hurt and disappointed but took the child as her own because of the death of the mother and the child’s innocence. Although Rose accepted the child she enforced that Troy is a “womanless man”(Wilson 506). Shannon’s articles reinforced that African American women are always considered to be victims hence “ the product of crude male consciousness”(Shannon 3). Troy knows how faithful Rose is, she puts all her dreams and desires behind her just to stay by Troy’s side and to keep her family in one accord. Wilson uses Rose as the rooted ground of the family. He shows us the strength of black women. Shannon also enforces how black women aren’t being treated rightfully by men.

As people of society, we all use different words and slug to explain and show expressions toward something. Walking around the Fence: Troy Maxson and the ideology of “Going down swinging” by David Letziter is an article about Troy’s favorite metaphor “going down swinging”. Wilson uses baseball as a metaphor in Fences to spread factual information around the world. To say that someone or something has “gone down swinging” is a statement used to say that although a person has failed, they at least try to give their best shot, unlike those who have not tried at all. In other words, it doesn’t matter what’s the challenge, it’s better to attempt than to just lay back and say you can’t. In Fences, Troy talks about how some of the black players, play much better than the white players in the Negro League. He said that he can play much better than some of his colleagues but still there on the field and not him. “Man batting 269 while I was hitting 432 with thirty-seven homeruns!”(Wilson 462). Letzler stated in his article that “Troy derives from baseball is misguided by the view of social, racial and political worldview”(Letzler 302). Troy may not be the world most famous baseball player but at least he made an effort to join the team, wanting to become something good in life and to make a change.” The batter swinging and either putting a weakly hit ball in play or missing it entirely may well lead to a worse result than letting the pitch pass”(Letzler 304). This is basically saying that, it’s better to make moves than to let things pass. Troy has a compassion for baseball, he uses metaphor thoroughly to express different ideas. From hitting home runs for beating death(Wilson 10), striking out for any kind of failures(Wilson 58,69), bunting for settling down with rose(Wilson 69) and the attempting to seal a base for his affair with his side girl out of his marriage(Wilson 70) that we can at least partly reconstruct one ( Letzler 305). This article embraces the action of pushing forward, doing your best in everything you do without caring what others are going to say.

We all have sinned and done things that are not of God, but regardless he still gives us his mercy. Everyone has a special person in their life that is sent by God as an angel. Myles Weber’s article “Rescuing the Tragic Bully In August Wilson’s Fences” talks about Troy’s brother Gabriel in Fences, who always talks about the gates of heaven opening by st. Peter. Gabriel has a mental illness due to World War ll. Gabriel always has a trumpet that he blows, awaiting the day that St. Peter opens the gates of heaven so his brother Troy can enter heaven. “Troy is a “self-absorbed bully of a protagonist” which means that Gabriel is on the heritage of rescuing Troy from all the things he has done in his life. Troy has cheated on his wife and encounters his son further in sports, and the exploitation of his brother’s brain damage. Gabriel is like the angel sent by God to lead Troy to his past. Gabriel loves to dance. At the end of the play, Wilson concludes the death of Troy. Wilson also info size that the dance of Gabriel is a “ritual”(Wilson 520). At Troy’s funeral, Gabriel convinces St. Peter to open the gates of heaven by blowing his trumpet but there was no sound coming out, Gabriel decided to do his strange dance to help the gates to open. After his dance, the gates of heaven open, and Troy was forgiven. Weber says that Wilson” breaks the Aristotelian tradition, which would normally oblige the protagonist to endure, unhappily ever after, the consequences of his hubristic error”(Weber 648). “ Following eight years of estrangement from his son and eight years spent as a woman-less man, Troy is redeemed, though posthumously”(Weber 650). We may say that trey doesn’t deserve to enter heaven based on his selfishness to the people around but God doesn’t judge like mankind, he looks deeper within and he seems good in Troy. Wilson teaches us that God has the last say in everything don’t matter what we may do. He is a Forgiving God.


  1. August Wilson. Fences. New York: Plume, 1986
  2. Koprince, Susan. “Baseball as History and Myth in August Wilson’s ‘Fences.’” African American Review, vol. 40, no. 2, 2006, pp. 349–358. JSTOR, Accessed 7 May 2020.
  3. Letzler, David. “Walking Around the Fences: Troy Maxson and the Ideology of ‘Going Down Swinging.’” African American Review, vol. 47, no. 2/3, 2014, pp. 301–312., Accessed 7 May 2020
  4. Sandra G. Shannon. “The Fences They Build August Wilson’s Depiction of African-American Women.” Obsidian II, no. 2, 1991, p. 1. JSTOR Journals,,cpid,url&custid=s4338230&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.44485235. Accessed 15 October 2018.
  5. Weber, Myles. “Rescuing the Tragic Bully in August Wilson’s Fences.” Southern Review, vol. 50, no. 4, Sept. 2014, p. 648. International Bibliography,,cpid,url&custid=s4338230db=f5h&AN=99097043. Accessed 15 October 2018.

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The Main Theme of August Wilson's "Fencing". (2022, May 08). Retrieved from

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