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The Value of Family in Fences, a Play by August Wilson

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Fences by August Wilson tells the story of Troy Maxson, an extremely memorable character in American playwriting. He embodies the average black man of the 1950s. He is hardworking and ultimately puts his feelings aside for the sake of others, that might seem contradictory at times but when it comes to his family, Troy always puts them first. Several years ago he played in the Negro Leagues and now works as a garbage pick up man. Like many,( both then and now) he faces the trials and tribulations that come with raising a family and living life in general such as teaching them what is really important.

Although he may have selfish tendencies Troy is a caring, hardworking individual who ultimately deserves salvation.

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Early on it is apparent to the audience that Troy greatly values his family and what it means to be a family. In reality most of the interactions he has with others in the story are with people who he is related to in some way, shape or form. Towards the middle of the play the audience learns that Troy has been unfaithful to Rose, His wife of eighteen years who he has a child with. Rose learns about the affair after Troy has a conversation with his close friend and co worker Bono and makes the decision that she deserves to know the truth. Troy says,

“ I’m talking woman, let me talk. I’m trying to find a way to tell you…I’m gonna be a daddy. I’m gonna be somebody’s daddy.” (66) Despite his actions being wrong and being fully being aware that they are, Troy believes Rose does not have a right but she deserves to know the truth because of who she is and what she means to him. Troy may understand what he did was wrong however he seems rather excited. He has two children, the oldest, Lyons, about thirty five or so years old who he had from previous relationship and Cory who is seventeen years old with Rose. Being a father isn’t something new for him but the way he responds with “I’m gonna be somebody’s daddy” makes it seem as if fatherhood is an amazing experience for him. As if at one point when his sons got older he was no longer a father, because they didn’t need him as much. Now that there is an opportunity for another child he believes he will “become” a father once again. The affair ultimately drives a wedge between Troy and Rose. Rose is hurt, she feels as if the eighteen years they spent together was worth nothing, she gave up her dreams to be with him. From her point of view, Troy still seems unaffected. Troy is affected from the affair but in a very different manner from Rose. He understands his wife is hurt, however the two of them still live together and to the outside world looking in it’s almost as if nothing happened. The mother of Raynell (Troy’s new baby) had died during childbirth, leaving Troy to raise her. The viewer can tell that this further upsets Rose but Troy doesn’t really care. Troy had to rethink his priorities, things may not be working out between him and Rose but he is now thinking of what is best for Raynell, and how the situation of how she came to be will affect her. “ She don’t know anything about grown ups’ business, she innocent and she ain’t got no mama.” Troy believes that Raynell deserves to grow up in a stable family environment just like any other kid during that time. He puts his and Rose’s happiness aside by basically begging Rose to takeover the mother role for Raynell. This further drives the wedge between them because the child has no blood relation to Rose(Therefore she has no connection with child), but Troy is thinking about what will be best for his daughter.

During the 1950s jobs were very hard to come by due to the post Great Depression economy, but they were especially difficult to come by as a black man in America, even if he lived up North. Money can be very challenging to get but Troy always manages to find a way to look after his family. Troy is considered as the primary caretaker for Gabriel. His younger brother who has a metal plate in his head due to a World War Two related injury. His injury leaves him thinking he is the biblical character, archangel Gabriel and this belief often gets him into trouble with the law, as a matter of fact by the second half of the play the audience is aware that he has been arrested several times. “ That makes six or seven times I done went and got him” In this scene Troy is talking to Rose about having to bail out his brother once again after he got arrested for disturbing the peace, it may seem like irritating occurrence but this has become a rather mundane activity within the Maxson household. For several years he has had the choice to abandon Gabriel either by checking him into a hospital or just leaving him in jail and letting the justice system take over. Ultimately Troy does right by his younger brother and constantly looks after him, even if it burns a hole in his wallet. Another example of his Generosity when it comes to money happens during act one with his oldest son, Lyons. Lyons is in his thirties and has a dream to become jazz musician however he doesn’t have a job at the moment and relies solely on the money his girlfriend, Bonnie makes or the money he borrows from his father. The relationship between the father and son pair is rather strained, in fact according to Troy the only time he visits is when he wants something from him. Lyons comes by one day when Rose and Troy are sitting outside and like Troy predicted, his son asks him if he can borrow ten dollars. At first Troy denies him of his request and he exclaims to Rose “Give him ten dollars if you want him to have it” (19) Rose proceeds to give Lyons the ten dollars (the money actually belongs to Troy) and he is on his way. Knowing Troy’s character he oftens gives his sons a hard time when it comes lessons such as money management and how to become a man. Ultimately if Troy didn’t care about Lyons needing the money and his well being, he would have put up a bigger fight to prevent him from getting the ten dollars every time he comes by for a visit.

When it comes to his other son, Cory, Troy constantly intervenes in order to make sure he is doing what is best for his future. In his world, Cory’s number one priority is football, he takes it so seriously, he may be scouted to play for a college. Troy believes his sons chances of making it big in the athletic world are slim, because of what happened to him playing in the negro leagues, years prior. Rose thinks Cory just wants to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming an athlete and Troy wants Cory to be nothing like him. Troy later confronts his son telling him that he needs to work and stop practicing football. One day Troy finds out the news about his son and his current employment. “Mr Stawicki tell me he ain’t working down there” (50) Mr. Stawicki owns the A&P, the local supermarket, where Troy believed Cory worked. Cory’s actions upset his father but he still believes football is his number one priority. At one point he confronts his father about his feelings towards him, asking why he doesn’t like him and Troy responds in a “I don’t have to like you but it is my job to take care of you” sort of manor. Meaning the pair may not always get along, but as a father Troy understands he must look after his son.

Making mistakes every once in awhile is apart of life, those mistakes can later be used as learning experiences. Hard working and caring individuals are the ones that ultimately deserve salvation. Troy Maxson, looked out for his family his entire life, although he needs got in the way at times,

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