Fences Conflict and How It Affects the Work Essay
Fences, by August Wilson, is a drama that focuses on the characteristics of black
life in the mid to late twentieth century and the strains of society on African Americans.
Set in a small neighborhood of a big city, this play holds much conflict between a father,
Troy Maxson, and his two sons, Lyons and Cory. By analyzing the sources of this
conflict, one can better appreciate and understand the way the conflict contributes to the
The first conflict in this play develops between Troy and his 34-year old son
Lyons. This conflict is introduced when Lyons appears at the house on Troy’s payday to
borrow 10 dollars, an occurrence that is common at the Maxson household. Although
Troy knows that he will let Lyons have the money, he harasses Lyons over the issue
..The only time I see this nigger is when he wants something. That’s the only
time I see him.” The source of this conflict lies in Troy’s experiences and attitude
toward the black cause. Troy is the victim of a generation with limited opportunities in
the industrial world and toils everyday to support his family and stay on top of his
struggle for survival.
Troy has come to believe, from his experiences, that blacks cannot
get something for nothing and that life does not owe blacks anything. Due to this, Toy
“fences in” everything that he loves to protect his possessions from the monster of
society. Thus there is a symbolization of Troy building a physical fence in the yard but
building an emotional fence of protection around his family and friends. He believes that
blacks owe it to themselves to make an honest, hard-earned living and that is the only
way to survive. Troy states sarcastically that Lyans is blowing his money while living on
the streets trying to live the “fast life” of a musician. In his pride, Troy states: “.
ain’t gonna find me going and asking nobody for nothing. I done spent too many years
without.” Lyans, on the other hand, is part of a new ambitious generation of blacks who
believe that they can make something of themselves in an opportunistic world. It is
evident that Lyans believes that there is a hope for success for blacks in the world’s
Lyans deals with the world and its struggles through his music and feels that his
music gives him a sense of belonging and a reason for existence. Lyans, in contrast with
his father, believes that they are “…two different people..
.” and that they just have
different methods of handling the world. Troy believes that Lyans is blind to the
harshness of society on blacks and reacts in scrutiny to his son’s wanting 10 dollars. This
conflict between Troy and Lyans emphasizes Troy’s flaw in his relationships. Troy is so
worried that he is going to be taken advantage of and is so bitter because of his past
experiences with whites, that he creates a “fence” or barrier between his relationship
with his family. It is evident that Lyans, who quickly pays back the 10 dollars, wants a
closer relationship with his father but does not succeed due to his father’s bitter words
The second conflict in Fences involves Troy and his youngest son, Cory.
a 17 or 18 yr. old boy who enters coming home from football practice. Troy, when
seeing Cory, immediately attacks him verbally: “…The garbage sitting in there
..you ain’t done none of your chores…” Following this, Troy and Cory’s
conflict arises due to a difference in priorities between them.
First of all, Troy prioritizes
retarring the roof over getting a new TV while Cory believes in getting a new TV now
and fixing the roof when it starts leaking. Troy is trying to teach Cory responsibility but
is going about it in the wrong way by damaging their relationship with harsh words.
Next, instead of maintaining a job at the A&P like his father wishes, Cory wants to play
football with hopes of earning a football scholarship to a college . Troy orders Cory to
hold a job at the A&P as a first priority and play football as a second priority. The
conflict between Troy and Cory goes even deeper concerning Cory being recruited by a
scout from North Carolina. Troy refuses to sign the permission statement in an effort to
thwart Cory’s dream.