Why has this play become a classic?Why has this play become a classic?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There will be many answers to this question.  In the end, it will come down to your own opinion and surveying what is there.  I think that one reason why this play has been received so well is because it presents reality in an artistic manner.  Wilson has composed art, but he has done so in a way that mirrors our own reality.  This is not something that is foreign to us.  Seeing Troy's stunted emotional growth, a fear of death with real and definable features, being there physically but not emotionally are all aspects of reality that are understandable to all of us.  They are not conditions outside of us, but rather help to form the matrix and configuration in which we wlife.  In presenting reality and art and art in reality, Wilson has moved into a rarified air with his work.  On a more socially conscious level, Wilson found a way to represent race and simultaneously transcend it.  Certainly, there is no escaping the fact that race and ethnicity are major components in the play.  Troy and his family are African- Americans, his best friend is Black, and the issue of race is vitally important in the formation of his personal and social identity.  Yet, Wilson has created a character and family that lives within the construct of race, but also speaks to a world outside of it.  People of all cultures can relate to spouses and lovers who are incapable of feeling a certain emotional experience, trapped in their own emotional "fences."  All people can relate to the struggle against the external condition of economics and the harsh way in which it defines one's reality.  There is a universality in the gap between father and sons and how this is revisted in our future.  In all of these instances, the universality of the play combined with the stinging specificity of its racial discussion makes the play worthy of praise.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Subtly enough but not too subtly, Fences presents us with a rich set of symbols and structural-symbolic relationships that create a sense of depth of meaning.

The characters are realistic and archetypal. This is a story, but it is more than a story.

When a piece of literature strongly implies this to be the case and does so through a well-rendered and crafted surface text, we have a work of art that is powerful and re-readable.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a good question.  I think people see it as a metaphor for life, first of all.  It also captures a specific time period, and people are interested in the point in time when American was trying to find itself after the second world war.  It's also got great characterization.