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

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.