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His father cannot see him as a new hope; because he is too busy trying to protect him from the past. However, he cannot protect him, and in fact, he lets the past influence his own decisions. Wilson seems to be saying that many black men cannot learn from their past, instead they keep perpetuating the same mistakes generation to generation.
Troy is a liar, which also gives a clue to Wilson's ideas on fatherhood. Throughout the play he says he loves Rose and does not run around on her, yet he has an affair with Alberta, sires a daughter with her, and Rose has to raise the daughter when Alberta dies. Thus, he shows that he is not trustworthy - instead, he is cunning and sly. His life is about self-gratification at any cost, and he does not consider the feelings of others in his decisions. Wilson's cynical view is of fathers who are not trustworthy, responsible, or able to grow away from the sins and mistakes of their own fathers, and Troy epitomizes that cynical view perfectly.
Troy is not a bad parent because he is selfish and self-centered, the worst thing between Troy and his sons is his inability to allow them to grow and pursue their dreams. He is so intent on controlling them and molding them to fit his own ideals that he cannot allow them to strike out on their own and become men. That is why he drives Cory away - he takes away his dream of playing football and making something important of his life. Consciously or not, he punishes Cory for his own failure to play in the major leagues. He did not reach his dream, and so, he cannot bear to see his sons attain their own dreams. Thus, he represents the very worst traits of fatherhood - the father who cannot give his children their freedom and their happiness.
Another clue to Wilson's thoughts on fatherhood in the play (and many of his plays), is the location. Another critic notes, "Wilson's African-American characters are, for the most part, working-class black men who live within the geographical location of the Hill District of Pittsburgh" (Perry). This is true with "Fences," and it represents the area where Wilson himself grew up. It could also represent the absence of his own father from that working-class neighborhood. He writes of dysfunctional fathers because his own experience was one of dealing with dysfunctional fathers, and he can relate to the pain it caused in his own life. Therefore, he can portray the pain of his characters much more effectively.
Yet another critic notes, "In all Wilson's plays, the men, especially, strive for dignity, despite the soul-crushing challenges they face and have faced for generations" (Alexander). Troy does indeed strive for dignity, but he does not find it. Instead, as he becomes more critical, he becomes less successful and destroys the happiness he has in life. He destroys the love Rose has for him, drives his sons away, and dies before he can reconcile with them. He faces challenges and meets them head-on, but in the end, he loses his dignity and his happiness.
In conclusion, Wilson's view of fatherhood is quite evident in this troubling play. He bases it on his own relationship with his father and stepfather, and he thinks that fathers and sons have difficulty putting the past behind them and supporting one another. His view of fatherhood is colored by his own experiences and his own inability to understand and forgive his father. Cory suffers the same fate, and does not return to his father until it is too late. One must hope that Cory has learned more from his experiences than his father learned from his, and that when he raises a son, he can be more balanced and fair in how he deals with adversity and misunderstandings. If not, he will continue the same pattern his father carried throughout his life, and the same pattern that so many fathers are unable to leave behind them.
Alexander, Elizabeth. "The One Who Went Before: Remembering the Playwright August Wilson, 1945-2005." American Scholar Wntr 2006: 122+.
Perry, Shauneille. "Manhandled: African-American Masculinity -- And Black Womanhood-Are Examined in August Wilson's Oeuvre." American Theatre Apr. 2005: 64+.
Shannon, Sandra G. The Dramatic Vision of August…[continue]
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