This is an essay on Fences by August Wilson.
The Unintelligent, the Stationary and the Adventurous
Throughout history humans have passed on knowledge through generations of relationships with their forefathers. These relationships could be loving or volatile, but often remain cohesive and beneficial. In August Wilson’s Fences, four main characters are introduced: Troy, Troy’s father, Lyons, and Cory, the latter three each having a relationship with Troy. Throughout the story, Troy’s relationship with his father and sons reflects that in each generation, a child is wiser than his parent.
Troy’s youth begins by becoming tainted by an abusive father who does not care for Troy. Troy realizes his father has shortcomings, believing “he ain’t cared nothing for no kids. A kid to him wasn’t nothing”(51). Recognizing this, Troy runs his life to care for his children and family, in order to get them to a better place than that which he had been in when he was young. Troy seems scornful of his fathers actions, as if he knew that he could become a better person than his father. He tells Cory “A man got to take care of his family”(38), showing that he indeed has learned better from his father’s shortcomings, and is a greater man than his father, in terms of duty and responsibility. Troy’s father felt little responsibility for Troy, leaving Troy with just the bare leftovers of what Troy’s father had already consumed(Not just in terms of food). Troy discovers that in order for him to build a superior life for his family he must learn from his father’s mistakes. Troy acts responsibly for his family, and does not abandon it because of his personal pleasures. Even with his limitations, Troy’s circumstance exemplifies his ability to exceed the standards of living conditions forced on him by his father.
Lyons, building off of what his father achieved, reveals that he himself can surpass his father as well, in terms of livelihood. Troy voices his concerns about Lyon’s lifestyle, believing Lyons to be “too lazy to work”(17). Troy’s limited views about life, which he believes to be either work or laziness, do not allow him to see past Lyon’s shortcomings, and realize Lyon’s true intelligence. Lyon’s brilliance is shown when he tells Troy “I know I got to eat. But I’ve got to live too. I need something that gonna help me to get out of bed in the morning.” (18). Lyons realizes that there is more to life than just supporting a family. If all he does is worry about supporting kids and a family, like Troy, then he will not be truly satisfied with his life. Lyon’s does not disbelieve in what his father says, rather he believes more than what his father believes. Lyon’s knows the importance of putting food on the table, and satiating his family’s desires. However, Lyons also recognizes the need for something outside of food, outside of necessity. He understands that life is more just than survival and care, but also enjoyment. Lyon’s view of life is far greater than Troy’s, showing that Lyon’s is indeed a more sophisticated individual than his father.