What is the theme or one of the themes of Fences by August Wilson?

Themes in Fences by August Wilson include love versus obligation, interpretation of history, death, responsibility, and the way in which racism interferes with dreams.

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One theme in Fencesis love—more specifically, the balancing act of love versus obligation. Troy is a character who has difficulty placing his love in his family. Perhaps this difficulty stems from the fact that he loves himself too much, but more likely, it stems from the fact that he...

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One theme in Fences is love—more specifically, the balancing act of love versus obligation. Troy is a character who has difficulty placing his love in his family. Perhaps this difficulty stems from the fact that he loves himself too much, but more likely, it stems from the fact that he hates himself too much.

When Cory confronts his father asking whether or not he likes him, Troy responds: “Liked you? Who the hell say I got to like you?” (1.3). Troy sees his parenthood as an obligation, something to be wrestled with and conquered. His pugnacious outlook towards life inhibits him from enjoying what he has and the people around him. His lack of appreciation extends to his wife, Rose. When he confesses to his affair he says to her: “Locked myself into a pattern trying to take care of you all ... forgot about myself” (2.1). Again, it is clear that from Troy’s perspective love is an obligation. It goes deeper than not being able to love his family; Troy seems incapable of accepting love himself.

In the same scene, Rose admits to Troy: “I took all my feelings, my wants and needs, my dreams ... buried them inside you” (2.1). In some ways, Rose is the opposite of Troy. She put all of her love outside of herself and forgot about self-preservation. The balance of loving yourself and loving the people around you can be difficult, especially within your own family.

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One of the play's themes is the interpretation of history, especially as it relates to the African-American experience. Troy demands that Cory quit the football team as he doesn't want history to repeat itself. When Troy was a young man he was denied the opportunity to be a successful baseball player, largely—but not exclusively—on account of his race. Troy is certain that the exact same thing will happen to Cory.

Troy is trapped in the past, but Cory sees the necessity in moving on. He believes that times have changed, and that he can make his own history. He's much more comfortable with society and sees the opportunities that exist to make a success of his life. Unlike his father, forever stuck in the past, Cory sees that the world is changing, and that professional sport provides growing opportunities for young African-American men.

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One of the themes of Fences is the way in which racism interferes with the characters' dreams. At the beginning of the play, Troy wants to be the first African-American person to drive a garbage truck rather than just lift cans, and his son, Cory, wants to go to college on a football scholarship. Troy has seen his own dream of becoming a professional baseball player shattered because of racism, and he thinks the same thing will happen to his son. He says, "the white man ain't gonna to let him get nowhere with that football." When Cory tells Troy that he is being recruited to play college football, Troy insists that Cory instead learn a trade so that he can have a job to rely on. Troy doesn't want his son to be hurt and barred from sports the same way he was, and he says, "I don't want him to be like me!" 

By the end of the play, Troy and Cory's dreams have not come true. While Troy is promoted to being a driver, he feels lonely in his new position and says that he "ain't got nobody to talk to," because his new position and his previous affair with another woman have distanced him from his friend, Bono. Cory has left his football in the closet of his boyhood room and has become a Marine in the 1960s, just before the escalation of the Vietnam War. Because of racism, their lives have not turned out the way that they had wanted them to.

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One of the most important themes in Fences is death, \which Troy fights for much of the play. Another theme is that of responsibility. Tory is a father and a provider, who takes care of people. Yet he also breaches that responsibility by having an affair with another woman, Alberta. When she becomes pregnant, however, Troy takes responsibility for it, and when she dies in childbirth, he takes care of the child. Fences themselves are a major theme, as the title indicates. Rose imagines the fence around the house as a way to keep the family safe. But Troy imagines it as a way to fence in the ambitions of Cory, his son. Race, and the barriers that divide white from black (as in Troy's inability to play major league baseball) are also imagined in terms of fences. Finally, opportunities are crucial to the story. Troy had fewer opportunities than his son, and when Cory is offered a college football scholarship, Troy will not let him accept it, out of fear that his son willl outachieve him.

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