The play Fences by August Wilson demonstrates the objectification of women in the post-slavery African-American community during the mid-twentieth century, while also providing proof that a woman in the 1950’s can obtain the upper hand in their households. As the roles of black men are changing in society, especially in professional and collegiate athletics, the roles of women in society are stagnant. Living in the 1950’s was a difficult time for an
African-American woman, but Rose Maxon, the wife, and caregiver of her family, was capable of making it work to the best of her advantage. Focusing more on the positive aspects, Rose realizes that times are changing for the better in reference to the image of black men in a white man’s society. In Troy’s opinion, the black man will always be inferior. While this does create a character conflict, it gives a good reference to the morals and virtues of Rose in comparison to that of Troy’s, allowing the reader to view the complications of being a woman in a society controlled solely by men.
Rose encourages Cory to play football and keep good grades, while Troy, on the other hand, tries to rain on his success. This provides the general feminine and masculine conflict.
When it is Troy who defends his beliefs, he is respected for speaking up for himself, but when Rose becomes upset with being walked on, she is ridiculed for speaking out of her place, which is similar to the issue of the discipline and encouragement of their children. It is expected to be Rose’s responsibility to mentally support the entire household along with caring for the home physically. Rose tries to keep her spirits up even though she is going through rough times and has limited finances. She feels that family should be the most important source despite any financial problems going on. ‘Rose finds sweet strength in moments of repose and broad vulnerability during heated exchanges.'(Lillie). In this article, Lillie expresses the amazing qualities of Rose and all that she has done for her family in the play. She also talks about how there is hope for a better future for African American women of all humankind. ‘What should a realist expect of Troy Maxson, who was abandoned by his mother at age eight, fled a brutal, lustful father at age fourteen, began to steal for a living, and served fifteen years on a murder charge?'(Coussoule). One can only expect but so much measure of good, and Troy exceeds a realist’s expectations. He holds a steady but disagreeable job as a garbage collector, supports a wife and son, stays sober six days a week, and wins his own private civil-rights battle to become a driver. While he has his flaws, he is proven ability to keep a job and support a family, which was difficult for most black men during the 1950s.
While feminism and the strength that Rose held was apparent in the play, some several obstacles and instances gave away the point that women were not appropriately evolving in society during that time. The play also demonstrates the objectification of women in the post-slavery African-American community during the mid-twentieth century. There is little resistance or resentment verbalized or otherwise demonstrated by anyone in the play except for Rose when she finds out about Troy’s infidelity. Even when Troy is clearly in the wrong, Rose’s sacrifices are minimized and the use of women as objects is perpetuated and justified by Troy. The dichotomy between the black and women experience points out to a degree the hypocrisy of Troy and how his objectification of women is similar to the racism he experiences in his job and did experience in baseball. In the first parts of the play, rose is excluded from the conversation between Troy and Bono because they are having “men talk” (5). The “men talk” was discussing what features are sexually desirable in a woman, which is one way that women are objectified.
The following quote further demonstrates how Troy views women as objects to be enjoyed: “Legs don’t mean nothing. You don’t do nothing but push them out of the way. But the hips cushion the ride!” (5). It should also be noted that this is how Troy is discussing having sex his mistress in his own house while his wife is making him dinner and even tells Rose when she asks that it is none of her business.
Feminism is a large topic that hold a lot of weight in today’s society when it comes to criticism. In this play, Rose is being criticized by Troy when it comes to the certain comments and remarks he makes. While Rose and the rest of the family is playing their favorite game called “Numbers”, Troy criticizes Rose enjoyment of the game. “You shouldn’t mess around with numbers, it’s a waste of time” (1:2). Troy tries to convince Rose to stop playing numbers because he feels as if she enjoys it too much for such a little game. When there are foundations that are set by men, women can’t seem to find equality even in the little things that they do such as Rose.
In the play Fences by August Wilson, it is displayed throughout the entire play that women were frequently objectified, but it did not prevent the women to thrive as head of their household, therefore obtaining an advantage over men. As the roles of black men are changing in that society, especially careers involved athletics (in this specific case, it was baseball), the roles of women in society are stagnant. Rose encourages and emotionally provides for the household, which gives her a mental advantage. Troy, on the other hand, tries to rain on his success. Even when Troy is clearly in the wrong, Rose’s sacrifices are minimized and the use of women as objects is perpetuated and justified by Troy.
- “An Analysis of Gender Roles in Fences, a Play by August Wilson.” Kibin, https://www.kibin.com/essay-examples/an-analysis-of-gender-roles-in-fences-a-play-by-augustwilson-jC5pyNZf.
- “August Wilson, Doubling, Madness, and Modern African-American Drama.” Modern Drama, https://moderndrama.utpjournals.press/doi/abs/10.3138/md.43.4.611.
- “Feminist Perspectives on Fences.” Feminist Perspective on “Fences Essays, https://www.megaessays.com/viewpaper/93014.html.
- Full Text of “August Wilson “Fences””, https://archive.org/stream/WilsonFences/Wilson%20Fences_djvu.txt.
- Powell, Jason L. Feminism. Nova Science Publishers, Inc, 2013. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,shib&db=nlebk&AN=606402&site=eds-live&scope=site.
- Pushkareva, Natalia, and Maria Zolotukhina. “Women’s and Gender Studies of the Russian Past: Two Contemporary Trends.” Women’s History Review, vol. 27, no. 1, Feb. 2018, pp. 71-87. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,shib&db=khh&AN=126374660&site=eds-live&scope=site.
- Ros Velasco, Josefa. Feminism: Past, Present, and Future Perspectives. Nova Science Publishers, Inc, 2017. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,shib&db=nlebk&AN=1562831&site=eds-live&scope=site.
- “Rose as a Dramatic Character in Fences.” Rose as a Powerful Dramatic Character in Fences, https://www.bachelorandmaster.com/globaldrama/rose-as-a-powerful-dramatic-character-in-fences.html#.XbOnnsbMz-Y.
- Shoomp Editorial Team. “Rose Maxson in Fences.” Shoomp, Shoomp University, 11 Nov. 2008, https://www.shmoop.com/fences-august-wilson/rose-maxson.html.
- “The People Get Fenced’: Gender, Rehabilitation and African Nationalism in the Ciskei and Border Region, 1945-1955.” Taylor and Francis, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03057079208708337?journalCode=cjss20.