August Wilson’s Fences is a play that centers on a complex relationship between a father and his two sons. The father in question here is Troy, and his two sons are Cory and Lyons. Troy is the breadwinner for his family, and is so much proud of this fact. He is also a former baseball player in the African-American Leagues. Both sons have a tensed and complex relationship with their father. The tense relationship stems from two reasons. One of them is the fact that both sons and father harbor different ideologies in life. Cory and Lyons want to pursue their dreams, while his father wants them to become something else. The second reason is that Troy is apparently treating his sons more or less like the way he was treated by his father. Wilson states, Troy wondered why the devil had never comer to get…because he was the devil himself (p. 77)”.
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Cory and Lyons’ desire to have independent lives is the cause of different in ideologies with their father. Cory wants to become a professional baseball player, but his father is against the idea. As Wilson puts it, Troy wants Cory to “get [his] book learning so you can work yourself up in that A&P or learn how to fix cars or build houses or something that can get you a trade (p. 13)”. On the other hand, Lyons is interested in venturing into jazz music, but his father opposes the idea, too. It can, therefore, be argued that Troy’s relationship with his sons is one, in which he mixes his stubbornness with revenge on a tensed relationship he had with his father.
The similarities of Troy’s relationship with his sons are more overt. They have tense and bitter relationship. Troy’s character creates the large and small conflicts with the other characters in the play. The conflicts that arise from his relationship with the other characters are caused by his failure to believe in self-created illusions. As Nandell puts it, “he does not accept other peoples’ choice in life, especially when such choices go against his philosophy (p. 22)”. This is the origin of his complex relationship with his sons. Troy’s ideologies go against those of his sons because the two brothers have different ambitions from his father that he does not approve.
Troy uses his experience in the baseball league to be a stumbling block for Cory to pursue his ambitions. Wilson shows that Troy’s stubbornness cannot be withered by persuasion from Rose, who tells him “that times have changed from when you were young, Troy people change. The world’s changing around you and you cannot even see that (p. 41)”. However, Troy unwaveringly holds to his argument by arguing that he is shielding his son from undergoing the fate he personally faced. Nandell puts it that Troy ties the ambitions and dreams of his son to his fate, and this ends up locking his son from an opportunity of pursuing his career; thus, this becomes the cause of the tense relationship between father and son (p. 35).
Troy’s reason for not approving his son’s venture into being a baseball player can be viewed from two dimensions. One of them is that he is jealous of him, because his son has been given the chance to pursue his dreams, and therefore, Troy becomes resentful since he did not get that chance. Wilson notes that Troy does not desire to see his son resemble him, but “he does not wish them a thing else from my life (p. 35)”. This implies that although Cory is performing well at school and has an opportunity to join the baseball team; his father is selfish and jealous, as he does not want to be better than him.
The second dimension is that Troy is being protective for he does not want his son to experience the racism that he faced when he was a player. In spite of whatever reason that Troy has in mind for disapproving his son’s ambitions of becoming a professional baseball player, it can be argued that his concerns are unfounded. Nandell holds that Troy persists in being stubborn to his son, and attempts to shape him in the manner that he wants him to become, and, consequently, Cory ends up living in the shadow of his father (p. 29). Shannon argues that the irony about the father-son relationship between Troy and Cory is that they both had similar interest in baseball, hence, this is supposed to be their unifying factor, but it is their ambitions in baseball that is their bone of contention (p. 34).
Another aspect of the father-son relationship between Troy and Cory is that both individuals were full of hope and opportunity. However, they all end up being disillusioned. In the case of Troy, he had a hopeful profession as a baseball player, but was denied the chance by racial discrimination that existed in his time. As Wilson states clearly, he ends up living a disillusioned life by “filling garbage trucks (p. 2)”. On the other side, Cory would have supposedly had a successful career as a baseball professional player. However, his dreams never came to be, and he ended up being in a marine corps. He justifiably blames this on his father and that is why, as Nandell states, Cory is so much fed up with Troy that, “he does not want to go to Pop’s funeral (p. 53)”. However, regardless of how much Cory would like to make his father not a part of his life, his efforts are bound to fail, because he is only refusing to come to agreement with his father’s death, and consequently, he ends up being more like his father. This is demonstrated by the fact that they never achieved their sports ambitions, hence, ended up being disillusioned.
The father-son relationship between Troy and his sons can also be viewed from the person of Lyons, who is the elder of the two brothers. Lyons was fathered before his father went to jail, and even before he became a baseball player or meeting Rose. Wilson notes that Lyons has a passion for jazz music and is very talented (p. 43). He grew up in the absence of his father for a large part of his childhood, since his father was in prison. He does not stay with his father, but frequently visits him to collect money, that is, ten dollars to be exact. Just like the case of his brother, Lyons has a complicated relationship with Troy. Wilson adds that Troy does not approve his son’s career as a jazz musician, since he terms it as ‘Chinese music’ (p. 45)”. He regards his music as foreign and impractical.
In conclusion, although Troy seems to have the same tensed relationship with his sons, he is apparently a bit lenient to Lyons. Shannon holds that Troy gives him the money as a way of compensating for his absence in his childhood as Lyons grew up while he was in jail (p. 49). This can be considered as some form of lenience in the attitude that Troy has towards Lyons compared to the stubbornness that Cory experiences from his father. However, the underlying nature of the relationship of their tense and complex relationship is evident as Troy does not willingly give him the dollars. He, at times, has to be coerced by Rose.
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