How would you characterize the father/son relationship in the play Fences?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In truth, it seems to me that Troy in August Wilson's play, Fences, is trying to motivate his son to reach for the American Dream, something he was not able to do. In essence, Troy is doing what many parents have done for thousands of years: wanting to see a child or children provided for, and wanting the child to have a better life than the parent had.

Troy works as a garbage man. We learn early on that he is not even allowed to drive a truck (and make more money) because he is black. Troy's relationship with Lyons (his son from a previous marriage) is dysfunctional. Lyons comes to borrow money and Troy tells him he should get a job. Lyons blows Troy off saying that since Troy wasn't a part of the boy's life growing up, he has no right to scold him. (Ironically, it seems Troy has enough parental rights to be asked for a loan…)

Perhaps Troy's relationship with Lyons is another thing that drives Troy to try to make Cory's chances for success better. He wants to be involved with his son's life so that he doesn't end up like Lyons, begging for money, and unemployed.

The father-son relationship seems typical to me: the son can only know what his limited experiences have shown him. He likes football and has no time to think of the future or to consider that he might have difficulty like his father. His father's experiences are meaningless to Cory because Cory is too young and naive to know that he should pay attention to his father's advice. Troy has lived a hard life, including fifteen years in prison and a life that seems to run from pay check to pay check, weekend to weekend. He cares for his son and wants what is best for him. Even wanting to be an athlete himself, Troy has found with age that football won't count in helping Cory have a better life than Troy. This is all he can see.

Perspective is everything, and the father and son in the play are in different places. Someday they might better understand each other, but for now, they struggle because each one's perspective only encompasses how each sees the world at that moment, and their views are very different.

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