Female Characters of August Wilson

Topics: DramaFences

In the Fences, August Wilson’s parents became a source of his drama. August Wilson’s father was a German baker, Frederick Kittel, and his mother was a cleaning woman, Daisy Wilson. August Wilson’s father had never been with his family, later his parents divorced and his mother remarried David Bedford, who was Wilson’s stepfather. There was a conflict between August Wilson and his new father, which became the source of Wilson’s work. August Wilson denied the financial and emotional support of his father, and he changed his name to his mother’s name to honor his mother.

David Bedford became the motif of Fence’s Troy Maxson, and the conflict between Wilson and his father is expressed through Troy and his son Cory in the Fences. And his mother Daisy Wilson became the motif of Rose in the fence. Daisy is the name of the flower and Rose is also the name of the flower. Roses symbolize a variety of meanings such as love, desire, grace, happiness, gentleness, desire, sympathy, and power.

In an interview with Bill Moyers, Wilson said,

“The men need support and nourishment, and in the black community, there are always women who can supply that for them. My mother’s a very strong, principled woman. My female characters like Rose come in large part from my mother. (Jackson R. BryerMary, 2006)”

Daisy Wilson influenced August Wilson substantially. Some discussion of the gender in August Wilson’s project would be not complete without discussing the gender influences on Wilson’s life, and his mother was the principal among these.

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Daisy Wilson, Rose in the Fences, and many women in the works of August Wilson are very strong and powerful characters. However, women are not the focus of Wilson’s project. The main characters that lead Wilson’s work are almost all male: Aunt Ester Tyler in the Gem of the Ocean (the 1900s), Seth Holly in the Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1910s), Ma Rainey in the Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1920s), Doaker Charles in The Piano Lesson (1930s), Louise in the Seven Guitars (1940s), Troy Maxson in the Fences (1950s), Holloway in the Two Trains Running (1960s), Jim Becker in the Jitney (1970s), King Hedley II in King Hedley II (1980s), Harmond Wilks in the Radio Golf (1990s). Critics, directors, and actors have also discussed this point.

Wilson has been accused by critics of constructing women who, in his male-dominated dramatic vision, not only exist in subordinate positions but also operate solely in reaction to men and are defined and confined by these relationships. Such a position, however, I now maintain is simply too reductive; the woman question in Wilson is much more complicated (ElamHarry, 2004).

In the August Wilson’s talk Series, made by the Greene Space at WNYC in the fall of 2013, Journalist Charisse Jones, Michele Shay, Seret Scott, Ebony Jo-Ann, and Roslyn Coleman discussed the women at the center of the august Wilson’s cycle, it included includes Aunt Ester in Gem of the Ocean, Rose in Fences, Berniece in The Piano Lesson and Risa in Two Trains Running. They insisted, ‘The male characters may often be the central drivers of the narratives in August Wilson’s work, but it’s the women who are considered the theatrical backbone.’

In an interview with Nathan L. Grant in 1996, In an interview with Nathan L. Grant in 1996, they discuss his ability to make a multifaceted expression of women, “It probably has to do with the fact that I’m a man. I do create some black women characters and try to be honest in their creation, but it’s hard to put myself in their space. I don’t know. . . . It’s very hard to do. For instance, Risa in Two Trains Running. Not that I didn’t want to, I guess, but I don’t know it. (GrantNathan, 1996)” And August Wilson said, “I doubt seriously if I would make a woman the focus of my work simply because I am a man, and I guess because of the ground on which I stand and the viewpoint from which I perceive the world. I can’t do that although I try to be honest in the instances in which I do have women. I try to portray them from their viewpoint as opposed to my viewpoint. (ShannonSandra, Developing Character-Fences)“

There are many different views on why women are not the focus of August Wilson’s work, but I think it is relevant that Wilson links reality with his literature.

Ben Brantley says that While his works resonate with a far-reaching sense of collective destiny, they are also sprinkled with talisman-like references to real places and real people from his life: names of stores and neighbors, even street addresses. In ‘Joe Turner,’ a character named Mattie Campbell says she lives at 1727 Bedford Street. It’s the address of Mr. Wilson’s childhood home (Brantley, 1995).

Wilson changed his name because he honored his mother. If so, in the fence story, he could have led her mother’s model, Rose, as the main character, but Rose is strong, however, she is not the center of the story.

Although August Wilson’s mother was so strong and influential enough if he followed his mother’s name, the reason he did not put a woman anywhere as the main character could be due to the reality of the woman of that age. Although his mother was so strong and influential, the reason he did not put a woman anywhere as the main character could be due to the reality of the woman of that age. Women in 1957, especially black women have required to compromise marriage, and they quite a loss of self. Wilson put factuality in his literature, so Rose might not be the protagonist of this story to reflect on the historic truth experienced by black women.


  1. Brantley, B. (1995). The World That Created August Wilson. New York: The New York Times.
  2. Elam, H. J. (2004). The Past As Present in the Drama of August Wilson. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.
  3. Grant, N. L. (1996). Men, Women, and Culture: A Conversation with August Wilson. American Drama 5, no. 2.
  4. Jackson R. Bryer), M. C. (2006). Conversations with August Wilson. Mississippi: Univ. Press of Mississippi.
  5. Shannon, S. G. Developing Character-Fences.
  6. Shannon, S. G. (1995). The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press.

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Female Characters of August Wilson. (2022, May 08). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/female-characters-of-august-wilson/

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