The Race of Life in Fences by August Wilson

Get on your mark! Get set! Go! From the moment we are born, we enter the race of life. The race to win, to live victoriously, or to be successful in the race of life. Generally, we can say that success is defined as the accomplishment of something attempted. Therefore, anyone can be successful. But, as a society, what is valued as success? I believe society holds unrealistic values for a meaning of success. August Wilsons Fences display men who fall short of society s view of success.

Troy Maxson is a man who thinks he is a failure but finds it hard to admit. Troy is a middle age black garbage man who feels held back by the white man. Why you got the white men driving and colored lifting?  The quatation mentioned is an example of how Troy feels he will never amount to anything because he is a black man in the white man s world. Therefore, Troy limits his goals in life.

Maintaining a job, having a roof over his head, and food on the table is Troy s idea of success. This is his idea of success because he has accomplished this while having a hard life. Troy fences himself into his own little world where there is no room for anyone to question or judge him.

Meanwhile Troy s bitterness towards the white man creates callousness towards his son Cory. Cory, being a high school student, anticipates making it big playing football. Troy says in Act 1, Scene 1, told that boy about that football stuff.

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The white man aint gonna let him get nowhere with that football. Troy does not like that idea of Cory playing football because he thinks the white man will hold him back from his true potential as a football player. Troy thinks Cory should put his efforts into something that he can use in the world. You go on and get your book-learning so you cna work yourself up in that A&P or learn how to fix cars or build houses or something, get you a trade. That way you have something can t nobody take away from you. Therefore, when Troy learns that a recruiter is due to come by the house, he goes down to the school and tells the football coach that Cory can no longer play football and not to have the recruiter come to the house.

When Cory learns what Troy did he becomes resentful. Cory s bitterness towards his father mirrors the bitterness Troy has towards the white man. In Act 1, Scene 4, Cory says, Just cause you didnt have a chance! You just scared Im gonna be better than you, that s all (p.56). I do not think Troy s intentions are to hurt Cory. I think Troy is protecting Cory s best interest. Yet, at the same time, I think Troy is protecting himself. If Cory became successful at playing football, Troy would look like a failure because Troy never made it to the major leagues as a baseball player. Therefore, Troy would have to face the fact that it is he who holds himself back rather than the white man.

Troy believes that his skin color hindered him from being successful as a professional baseball player based on a false notion of white men. However, he failed to recognize that his success was based on his accomplishments and not society s.

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The Race of Life in Fences by August Wilson. (2022, May 09). Retrieved from

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