Analysis Of Fences By August Wilson

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August Wilson was born Frederick August Kittell, later adopting the maiden name of his mother, Daisy Wilson, not only to disavow his father, but to represent a significant rite of passage marking both his discovery and celebration of ties with Africa. He grew up in the “Hill”, a small district in Pittsburgh that was populated by poor African-Americans. His life was filled with a childhood of poverty and hardship along with discrimination from attending a predominantly white Catholic school. An analysis of the life of August Wilson reveals the various themes portrayed in his play, Fences, which discloses the strains of society on African-Americans and their aspirations as well as the plight of their place in America.
Although it is not clearly stated in the play, the setting takes place in the late 1950s to mid-1960s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This play was the sixth one in Wilson’s series of 10 plays known as “The Pittsburgh Cycle”, seeing that all but one were set in the Pittsburgh Hill District where Wilson grew up. The Hill District was an economically depressed neighborhood where various African-American families were often living in “appalling conditions” (Moss 144). These citizens migrated to Northern cities to escape poverty and find work in factories, but they were often disappointed. As stated in an article by George Wilson, “these new arrivals frequently experienced more of a struggle than they had expected in finding both work and decent housing” (Wilson 144). Many households, like Wilson’s, survived by subsisting on public assistance. Home ownership was often an impossibility due to the financial circumstances of black families. In Fences, Troy Maxson faces the same financial issues as those during Wilson’s childhood. Aside from over 20 years of constant working in sanitation, without Gabe’s disability benefits, he wouldn’t have been able to afford his house. This depicts that no matter how much determination an African-American puts towards their job, they evidently still end up struggling with credit problems, barely being able to make a living for their family and basic needs.
While dealing with financial problems during this era, some African-Americans “felt justified in stealing in order to
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