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Baseball as a Symbol of America in "Fences"

Along with the Fourth of July and apple pie, baseball is a celebrated symbol of America. Since its invention over 150 years ago, the game has served as a powerful metaphor for the American dream, and the hopes and democratic ideals that accompany this notion. Even so, in 1957, when August Wilson’s Fences is set, baseball was still in the early phases of desegregation, a process that had begun ten years before. This racial revolution left Wilson’s protagonist, 53-year-old former Negro league star Troy Maxson, resentful of the opportunities he was denied in his own baseball profession. Troy’s disappointment not only impacts his life, but also family’s life, in particular, his 18-year-old son, Cory. Primarily based on his outdated assumption that discrimination nevertheless exists in sports in spite of the cultural changes, Troy attempts to protect Cory by denying him a football scholarship and a possibility at the American dream. Troy explains his actions completely through baseball terminology. Troy also relies on baseball imagery to describe an extramarital affair and his relationship with death itself. Employing these vivid baseball pictures and loaded rhetoric, Troy Maxson defies the constraints of racism and the mundaneness of his own life.

Consumed with bitterness, Troy dwells on the memories of his former playing days although also attempting to distinguish himself as exclusive. Possessing been denied his want to play baseball professionally, Troy focuses on the principal deterrent to his former dreams. In Troy’s mind, there is only purpose he did not succeed at baseball, and that is his race. Soon after Rose suggests that Troy was just as well old when the baseball colour barrier was broken, he says, “What do you imply too old? Don’t come telling me I was as well old. I just wasn’t the right color. Hell, I’m fifty-3 years old and can do much better than Selkirk’s .269 proper now!” (39). Troy’s clear awareness of the power of race in figuring out opportunity is the principal source of his discontent. Troy feels the want to single race out, as shown by his use of “just,” to justify his angst. His comparison to the New York Yankees outfielder George Selkirk, an typical white player, also demonstrates his desire to make other folks recognize that he was indeed talented sufficient to be in the main leagues. He goes further in comparing himself favorably to Selkirk, saying, “Man batting .269, comprehend? .269. What type of sense that make? I was hitting .432 with thirty-seven house runs!” (9). Troy even goes so far as to evaluate himself to other black baseball players. He notes, “Jackie Robinson wasn’t nobody…Hank Aaron ain’t no one.” (34) Bringing these legendary African- American players to his own level, Troy suggests that it is genuinely impossible for any black athlete to be effective in professional, white-controlled sports. These claims, however, seem futile and unjustified coming from the embittered Troy. His repeated use of the word “nobody” also serves to illustrate one particular of the motives Troy could in no way have succeeded in specialist baseball, a reason he himself does not recognize. Wilson depicts Troy as headstrong and confrontational with a manner far much less conciliatory than would have been essential to handle the hardships of becoming black in the Significant Leagues in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Troy’s slandering of other players and the racist culture of baseball thus makes him come across as defiant rather than victimized. His prejudice and bitterness impacts his son Cory’s baseball profession, as well.

Believing that African-Americans will in no way be provided a fair likelihood in sports, Troy denies Cory the chance to play college football. The clash in between Troy and Cory persists throughout the play. It starts when Cory receives the news that he has been awarded a scholarship to the University of North Carolina. Troy’s quick reaction to this news is to assume that Cory won’t in fact even get the likelihood to succeed. Troy says, “The white man ain’t gonna let you get nowhere with that football noway.” (35) This echoes Troy’s personal complaints about his baseball career, but his concern for Cory’s future is even far more acute. Troy groups all sports organizations, or any folks with power as the “white man.” This generalization shows how disenchanted and prejudiced Troy has turn out to be right after experiencing so considerably disappointment in his baseball profession. As a result, when his personal son receives a possibility far superior to any Troy received, he instantaneously rejects it based on his longstanding fear of exclusion and rejection by those in energy. When Rose tries to convince Troy to let Cory play, she explains that Cory is basically trying to be like his father. She says, “Why don’t you let the boy go ahead and play football, Troy? Ain’t no harm in that. He’s just attempting to be like you with the sports” (39). The indignant language Troy utilizes to respond suggests that Rose has hit on a really sensitive topic. For Cory to be specifically like him is precisely what Troy wishes to avoid. Troy says to Rose, “I do not want him to be like me! I want him to move as far away from my life as he can get… I decided seventeen years ago that boy wasn’t acquiring involved in no sports. Not soon after what they did to me in the sports” (39). Troy’s way of protecting and caring for his son is confusing to Rose and infuriating to Cory. In Troy’s mind, he is defending his son from falling victim to his same disappointments. The sports world and baseball have come to represent such evils to Troy that he lets his previous shape Cory ‘s future, determined not to allow racism to dictate Cory’s life. Wilson leaves it ambiguous why Troy waited till such a late point in Cory’s life to cease him from playing sports. This is perhaps due to the fact Troy realizes that since Cory plays a diverse sport in a diverse time, he may well actually have a greater possibility at success than his father. This clash between Cory and Troy and eventually renders Cory unable to reside in the very same property as his father.

As Troy moves additional and additional away from his dream of playing baseball, he starts to meld the playing field with his residence life. Troy begins employing baseball imagery to direct his family members and defy white culture. Wilson describes the play’s only setting as “a little dirt yard, partially fenced…A baseball bat leans against a tree.” This description suggests that Troy nevertheless treats his surroundings like a baseball game. The dirt of the yard supplies a field on which to go to battle with whomever he requirements, just like he did even though playing the true game. Baseball imagery is central to the way Troy tends to make sense of his globe. He describes his attitude towards life to Rose, saying, “You born with two strikes on you prior to you come to the plate. You got to guard it closely…always looking for the curve-ball on the inside corner” (69). This potent image shows a defiant Troy as a perpetual fighter in the batter’s box of life, striving to earn a decent living in a world that will often discriminate against him. Troy attempts to convey this embattled and truculent mentality to Cory as nicely, but right after finding out that Troy has crushed his football prospects, Cory becomes so incensed that he starts to make angry accusations against his father. He says, “Just lead to you didn’t have a possibility! You just scared I’m gonna be greater than you, that is all” (58). Complete of idealism about the guarantee of the American dream, Cory’s reaction reflects the generational conflict amongst father and son. In response to Cory’s accusation, Troy responds with the exact same baseball-as-battlefield imagery. He says, “I’m gonna tell you what your error was. See…you swung at the ball and didn’t hit it. That’s strike 1. See you in the batter’ box now. You swung and you missed. That is strike a single. Do not you strike out!” (58) To Troy, baseball is inextricably linked with discomfort and disappointment. He equates Cory’s failure, with the physical action of missing a pitch, a “strike.” This representation of disappointment as a physical action shows the impact that disillusionment and racism have had on Troy’s life, as effectively as how Troy perpetuates this in his parenting choices. As Cory nears a “strike out,” or rather, getting kicked out of the household, Troy increasingly merges his baseball imagery with foreboding warnings. At some point, Cory has a physical fight with Troy and leaves the property, serving as the final strike in Cory’s potential sports career. This conflict requires a strong toll on Troy as properly.

Shortly just before the play’s conclusion, Troy directs his baseball rhetoric towards death and his marital conflict to underscore his proud defiance. Right after exposing his affair to Rose, Troy attempts to justify his actions again utilizing his traditional baseball terminology. He says, “I stood on 1st base for eighteen years and I thought…well, goddamn it…go on for it!” (70) This explanation gives a window into Troy’s character by displaying how focused his life had been on getting responsible. He assures himself that he was entitled to seek and accomplish a lot more simply because he had been living the same “decent,” “useful” life for “eighteen years.” It is telling that he uses the “first base” imagery to clarify his period of stasis because his baseball career was also stuck. By way of this show of pride, the reader can see how crucial it is for Troy to differentiate himself and to defy his static life. This theme of defiance continues as the play progresses and Troy starts addressing death itself. By linking baseball and death, he convinces himself that he is unconquerable and close to immortal. Troy says about death, “Death ain’t absolutely nothing. I done observed him. Done wrassled with him. You can’t tell me nothing about him. Death ain’t nothing at all but a fastball on the outdoors corner” (10). Troy equates death with a pitch that could he could hit to score a property-run. This address parallels his disparaging comments about Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson, in Act I, in that they each demonstrate that Troy wishes to show that he is stronger than his opponents. For Troy, death itself might represent the perpetual oppression of the white man, a force he wishes he could take on and conquer.

At some point, Troy realizes that his “at bat” with death has finally rendered him the loser. In his last speech, Troy addresses death as soon as once more, “(Troy assumes a batting posture and begins to taunt Death, the fastball in the outdoors corner). Come on! It is amongst you and me now! Come on! Anytime you want! Come on! I be prepared for you…but it ain’t gonna be easy” (89). Even till his final moments, Troy feels compelled to face death with the same vigor and fearlessness with which he would have faced the legendary black pitcher, Satchel Paige. By using baseball rhetoric at this final moment, Wilson leaves the reader considering about the nature of the sport, specifically the fact that there can only be one particular victor. Troy’s final speech also leaves the reader with a robust image of the protagonist as a warrior who remained resolute and defiant until his final hour. In the final scene of the play, as the entire Maxson household gathers to commemorate Troy, his brother Gabriel, in the figurative type of the Archangel Gabriel, says, “You ready, Troy. I’m gonna inform St. Peter to open the gates. You get ready now” (one hundred). As Gabriel sends Troy off by means of the Gates of Heaven, it becomes clear by means of the use of “You get ready now,” that he recognizes and respects Troy’s defiant character, as reflected by his language. No matter how many wrongs Troy committed in his life, he will in the end be remembered for his strength in the face of adversity and oppression. With the complete loved ones at the property, Troy’s house and actual playing fields are consecrated, and the wonderful man who never ever stopped swinging is forgiven and celebrated.

August Wilson’s Fences is special simply because it requires a traditionally white activity, baseball, and makes use of it to portray the African-American expertise. Through Troy, Wilson craftily expresses a black man’s complicated awareness of getting an outsider in a white society. At the same time, this method serves to contradict the common image of the wholesome American dream. Wilson suggests that America’s national pastime has been tarnished with racism and hence the idealistic promise of America is an illusion as effectively. The playwright as an alternative indicates, that the image of baseball, and the nation as a entire, should accept the growing part of the Troy Maxsons of the globe, the proud, defiant, African- American fighters who are just as deserving of the American Dream.
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