Explain if the women in Wilson's Fences typify gender roles of the 1950s or defy them.Explain if the women in Wilson's Fences typify gender roles of the 1950s or defy them.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the depiction of women in Wilson's work is a complex one. In one respect, I think that there is a definite statement that shows women to meet some of the traditionalist conceptions of women in the 1950s.  Both women do exert much in way of support of Troy.  While he is immersed in his own "emotional fences" and does not necessarily reflect much in way of male support to these women, they stand by him and do not outwardly repudiate him.  Throughout her interaction with him, Alberta is willing to share Troy with Rose, not appearing to make much in way of an apparent ultimatum that he sacrifice his marriage for her.  At the same time, Rose also stands with Troy and shows support for him.  These supportive roles of women are consistent with the traditional notion of how women in the domestic realm are constructed.

Yet, I would also suggest that Wilson does show women to be defiant of this vision at the same time.  It would be unrealistic to show the women in his work as being completely liberated from social constructions, so he shows them to be more complex than the reductive social vision that surrounds them.  While never seen in the play, Alberta must possess some level of strength that a traditional "woman on the side" does not necessarily hold.  "The other woman" is usually seen as one that lacks power and lacks the ability to hold on to the man because she is "the other woman" and must take whatever is offered.  Alberta is not like this because Troy is compelled to stay with her throughout the pregnancy and even after coming clean to his wife.  She exerts some type of hold on him and this reflects a power that the "other woman" traditionally lacks.  Rose is shown to be different than the traditional concept of woman, as well.  She is shown to be loyal to Troy, but also one who emotionally distances herself from him when the situation with him becomes untenable. She does not stay with him emotionally.  Rather, she involves herself with church and even the rearing of Raynell.  She has recognized that while she will not leave Troy or repudiate him, she will not emotionally surrender herself to him or the relationship.  This shows strength uncharacteristic of the traditional woman in the 1950s.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it's a perfect example of women in the 1950s.  After the war, women still found themselves in traditional roles but were slowly breaking out.  The war gave them a taste of another life.  They had the opportunity to become more independent.  Then the men came back, and they resumed their roles but slowly evolved them.