How does the author of Fences illustrate how different social forces impact Troy's life in a negative manner?Is racism the only force that causes negativity in Troy's life?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Part of what makes Wilson's work so powerfully compelling is that it really explores the different causes of disenchantment in modern individuals.  Accordingly, racism is one of several causes of negative energe in Troy's life.  Wilson creates a character that is so complex and so rich that it becomes illogical to capitulate every problem in his life to race and racism.  Indeed, racism is introduced as a condition in Troy's life that is present.  The first scene is one where the discussion of racism between Troy and Jim is honest, reflective of how many people of color feel about the issue of race in the workplace.  Certainly, the issue of race is also present when Troy's dreams of playing in the major leagues are obliterated by the integration of the Negro Leagues with the White Leagues.  Finally, racism seems to be an easy response for Troy to explain the painful condition of his life.  Yet, Wilson does not let Troy off the hook so easily.  Troy's own upbringing, one of abuse and neglect, is not racially motivated, but rather a condition of psychology.  His inability to emotionally come clean with his wife and Alberta is not an issue of race as much as it is of gender and his own condition of living in an emotional "fence," one that precludes him from being able to interact openly and freely with others.  His conflict with his son might have something to do with race in that Troy is projecting his own fears on his son, but the larger issue here is generational conflict.  Cory wants to pursue his own dreams, fail on his own, or succeed on his own merits.  Race does not enter his mind, and while it may cast a shadow on his own understanding, the conflict with his son is generational, one that is between old and young.  Troy is also pressured financially, making class and economics a part of his condition of negativity.  Finally, Troy is battling his own fears and his own perception of death.  In trying to "fence it off" or to repel it, Troy reflects his own condition of age, one where fear and insecurity towards a definable end are present.  All of these factors, not just race, help to create a portrait of a man desperately fighting off fear and negativity.

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