How can I start an argumentative essay about Fences? Which conflict does Wilson use to drive all other elements of the story?

The two main conflicts in Fences are the generational conflict between Troy and his son, Cory, and Troy's struggle with mortality.

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The first step to creating an argumentative essay is forming a thesis statement. If your aim is to discuss the most present conflict in the play, you could arguably either talk about Troy's conflict of facing his own mortality, or you could just as easily discuss the generational conflict between Troy and his son, Cory. Either conflict could be seen as a by product of the other.

When discussing Troy's conflict with mortality, it is helpful to always relate back to Troy's endeavor of building the fence. The fence, like so much else in Troy's life, is a challenge to death. He is taunting death to take him if it can, which eventually, of course, it will. Troy's fundamental disagreement with death comes from the feeling of Troy's that he has not lived a complete and satisfying life due to circumstances beyond his control.

This puts him at odds with Cory, who does have the potential for a successful life simply based, as Troy views it, on the time period in which he was born. By attempting to keep death away from himself, Troy fails to have a meaningful relationship with his son. Troy is always clipping his son's wings and beating him back from success because Troy sees his son's maturation as a harbinger of his own impending death.

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The conflict that drives all the other conflicts in the play is Troy's battle with death. This could form a potential thesis for your argumentative essay.

At the beginning of the play, Troy is constructing a fence in an attempt to keep death away from him. His attempt to keep death at bay is fruitless and it is the genesis of the other conflicts in the play. For example, he fights with his son, Cory, because he does not want Cory to play football. Troy fears that Cory will meet with disappointment and racism and instead wants his son to take the safer route of continuing to work in a grocery store or driving a garbage truck as he does. Troy wants to keep forces that can challenge his family, such as death and racism, away.

Troy also has an affair because he feels weighted down with responsibility in his marriage to Rose. His relationship with his mistress produces a daughter, whom Rose adopts. The affair drives him and Rose apart. All of these conflicts arise from Troy's fear of death and his attempt to outwit it.

An argumentative essay might examine why and how Troy attempts to keep death—and everything that could challenge him—away from him and his family. The essay could also explore the ways in which his attempt to keep death at bay is, in the end, not successful.

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An argumentative essay is one in which the author takes a position on a topic and then backs up their position with specific evidence from one or more texts, other sources, personal experience, or a combination thereof. In writing about Fences, an argument based on the central conflict would be very effective and easy to support from the play's text. Another type of argument could relate the conflict to real life as a window into the play's impact on the reader or audience.

Fences has both types of conflict—internal and external—and numerous conflicts between characters. The internal conflicts in both Troy and Rose are most apparent. Both are torn, in different ways, about their appropriate roles as parents. The external conflicts between husband and wife—of the human versus human type—are played out in the dialogue and action as well.

One key conflict that could provide ample evidence for an essay is between father and son—or more broadly, parent versus child. This type of conflict has a long history in real life and literature, so an argument emphasizing the conflict between Troy and Cory could not only draw on this text but be related to other cases.

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Introductory paragraphs can be tough! You will need a hook to grab in the attention of your readers, you will need to introduce what you will be discussing, and you will need a thesis statement that answers the question.

Once you pick which conflict you want to focus on, you can craft your thesis statement. Your thesis and what you are arguing may give you ideas for the very start of your essay. For example, perhaps you want to open with a quote from the play. If you are examining Troy's conflict with his son, then perhaps start with a quote of him yelling at his son. You could also start by providing a description of the conflict as a way of setting the scene. Let the readers envision the argument in their minds, and then explain why this conflict is so important to the rest of the plot. Another idea for an opening sentence is starting with a question: Have you ever had one argument that changed your life?

I hope this helps you start your essay!

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To answer your first question, to begin an argumentative essay, make sure that you develop a thesis statement, or a statement that outlines the essay’s main points. To check if you have a solid, workable thesis, you should be able to gather plenty of textual evidence from the play that supports your arguments. Depending on the essay length requirements, the thesis may have to be more complex and contain more sub-arguments that you will prove in the body paragraphs.

As to your second question about the play itself, one could argue that the main conflict in Fences is Troy’s internal conflict with himself and his dissatisfaction with his own life. He feels a sense of resentment for life’s injustices, most of which grew out of his status as a black male. This sense of inadequacy taints his relationships with his son, Cory, as Troy sabotages his football career. It also impacts Troy’s marriage to Rose: his infidelity could be interpreted as a manifestation of his unhappiness in their relationship but also with himself and his life accomplishments—or lack thereof.

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