Which element of fiction creates the most significant understanding in August Wilson's Fences?

The element of fiction that contributes most significantly to the understanding of the work in Fences is symbolism, as the symbol of the titular fences impact our understanding of the barriers in Troy's life. Character and conflict are also elements of fiction that create a significant understanding of the plot.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The elements of fiction are plot, setting, character, conflict, symbolism, and point of view. These are the broad pieces with which a work of fiction is crafted. In the overwhelming majority of works, all of these elements are very important in creating an understanding of the story. However, based on any particular work, some of these elements may be more prominent than others. In the case of August Wilson's Fences, the element of symbolism is incredibly prominent and works very well in defining the theme of the story. The titular theme is that of a fence, as it represents both the literal one that Troy is charged with building in the back yard, and the figurative ones that either separate or unite the Maxson family.

How the characters approach the fence project strongly indicates how they feel about those close to them. Rose, who insists that the fence be completed, sees it as a symbol of binding and protection, whereas to to Troy, the fence is a symbol of separation. Indeed, Troy spends the majority of the narrative alienating himself from the people that care about him. We can understand Troy's immature acts and self-destructive tendencies through his stubborn unwillingness to connect.

The elements of conflict and character are also powerful in terms of understanding the narrative. At the center of the play is the conflict between Troy and Cory. To a character like Troy, however, his conflict with his son is one with his own mortality. Troy feels that if his son is able to surpass him, his life and potential are over. This irrational belief causes him to openly sabotage his son's potential, further poisoning his bonds and pushing those that he cares about away from him.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team