Troy Maxson is an angry man. He is an embittered ex-con who has built inner fences around his emotions that no one—neither his son Gory, his wife, Rosa Lee, nor his best friend, Jim—can cross. A proud and bitter man who was prevented by racism from playing major league baseball, Maxson is at fifty- three years of age a garbage collector. While his job allows him to successfully provide for his family, handling garbage represents for him a grim metaphor of his life. As he did during a bit in prison, he once again feels confined, and those who love him most, who depend on him most, suffer most for it.
Through Troy Maxson, playwright August Wilson personifies the man who grew up during the heat of Jim Crow: first proud, hopeful, and passionate in expectation; then emotionally withdrawn and disillusioned from incessant battles with life. Wilson also masterfully illuminates both the strength that lies within community and the adverse impact of a psychology of inequality that devastates the African American male and, in turn, his family and relationships, potentially disintegrating that same community.
Wilson's Pulitzer Prize—winning play offers a bleak picture of what happens to black males when their aspirations go beyond the fences within which they are confined. The fences of a racist society are compounded by the fences black men have often created to ward off loved ones who remind them of their failures. These fences only harbor. pain and hasten an inevitable asphyxiation. Fences is a gripping portrait of a black man dying.