“Fences” is a profoundly impactful creation for stage and screen, showcasing a remarkable blend of drama and tragedy. It serves as a soul-stirring exploration, delving deep into the roots of pain and extracting the less attractive facets of life. The work provides a potent reflection for its audience by magnifying these elements. Its ultimate triumph lies in its capacity to present an unvarnished portrayal, urging men, women, and children to confront their vulnerabilities. The narrative’s complexity captivates, compelling viewers to grapple with the discomfort while holding them captive to the nuanced storytelling.
“Fences,” crafted by the skilled August Wilson, initially took the stage in 1985, but interestingly, it wasn’t published until the following year, as noted by the Encyclopedia Britannica. Despite this delay, Wilson’s compelling work resonated so profoundly that it earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1987. There’s no denying Wilson’s mastery in portraying the African-American experience in the 20th century through his plays. He was uniquely able to sift through his experiences and shape them into emotionally charged works that could profoundly move his audience. This artistic depth isn’t exclusive to “Fences” alone but extends to his other acclaimed works like “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “The Piano Lesson,” the latter securing another Pulitzer Prize. “Fences” has even transcended the confines of the stage, making its mark as a major motion picture adaptation, solidifying its place as a pivotal piece in Wilson’s remarkable body of work.
Despite its unassuming and simplistic title, “Fences,” the name holds symbolic significance, with the fence serving as the narrative’s focal point. The storyline revolves around a man’s endeavor to construct a fence for his wife, and the culmination of the work coincides with the completion of this barrier. A fence, in its essence, serves as a protective measure—a boundary warding off external forces. It functions as a tool to safeguard those within from potential destructive forces that could threaten the unity of the family. The film delves deep into the idea that, at times, protection from external sources may not be enough to ensure security. Instead, it intricately explores the internal challenges, portraying a man’s relentless pursuit to safeguard his family from external threats while simultaneously navigating the complexities of inner turmoil.
Digging into the essence, we find Troy at the heart of this narrative—a Black married man embodying the qualities of a hardworking, family-oriented, and ambitious individual. As the film unfolds, viewers are immersed in the ordinary yet profoundly impactful dialogues and interactions that shape Troy’s journey. He grapples with life’s intricacies, strives to define his identity, distances himself from the world he’s built, and carves out his own space. The exploration unfolds through a nuanced tapestry of conflicts that intricately weave together the theme of where a man’s journey commences and concludes and how relationships shape one’s significance in the world.
The narrative carefully unravels the conflicts between a man and his wife, transitions to the dynamic between a man and his sons, zooms in on a man’s relationship with the world, explores how he grapples with his faith and delves into the interplay with friends. Yet, at its core, it illuminates the internal struggle, laying bare the mistakes a man makes along the way. This exploration unfolds in a manner that causes the overarching themes of life, fulfillment, dreams, and defeat to burst forth with compelling force.
The narrative’s strength lies in its top-tier plot and the exceptional performances delivered by the cast, who carry the story to remarkable heights. The characters don’t merely go through the motions; they immerse themselves entirely in the personas they portray. It’s not just acting; it’s a transformative experience as they skillfully don the very skin of their characters. This commitment to their roles infuses the narrative with emotional depth, creating a level of realism that is genuinely compelling.
Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Troy depicts a character entrenched in stubbornness, defeatist tendencies, and a constant struggle with fear. Troy’s demeanor is shaped by a prevailing melancholy and a loss of self rooted in his past experiences. The weight of failed expectations and shattered dreams haunts him, compelling him to navigate the present through the lens of his past. Stagnation becomes his companion as he grapples with dissatisfaction, burdened by the complexities of life—be it economic, spiritual, professional, or relational challenges. In seeking solace, Troy turns to various pleasures, temporary remedies for profound anguish, and deep-seated anger directed at God, life, the world, and, most significantly, himself. Regrettably, this internal turmoil manifests in his relationships, causing harm to those closest to him.
Rose, Troy’s wife, portrayed by Viola Davis, stands as a pillar of duty, spirituality, commitment, and self-sacrifice. She willingly sets aside her dreams to fulfill a role ingrained as her duty. Immersed in this chosen identity, Rose shoulders the load even when doing so alone. Yet, her perspective is clouded by the potential of what could be, rooted in the echoes of what once was. Dashed dreams and losing herself to another person become the emotional terrain she traverses.
Bono, Troy’s friend, portrayed by Stephen McKinley Henderson, observes from the periphery, attempting to serve as an advisor. However, he finds himself incapable of redirecting Troy toward his moral compass. Troy’s moral center, once robust, has now eroded, leaving him adrift in a sea of conflicting emotions and compromised principles.
Together, these characters in “Fences” serve as powerful symbols of archetypes within the African-American community. In their collective narrative, viewers witness the amalgamation of individual struggles that resonate even more profoundly. Troy serves as a representation of numerous Black men whose dreams have been shattered by societal oppression or inherited circumstances. He encapsulates the universal theme of confronting unfulfilled aspirations, bitterness, and the enduring impact of past traumas. His internal conflicts strike a chord with anyone who has faced obstacles to their dreams.
Rose, in turn, emerges as the quintessential embodiment of African-American women who navigate hardships with remarkable resilience and grace. Her character transcends racial boundaries, reflecting the universal struggle of women who sacrifice for family’s sake, enduring personal disappointments while upholding familial bonds.
Bono’s character functions as an archetype of the loyal friend grappling with the constraints of influence. His role as an observer and advisor, unable to redirect Troy towards moral clarity, reflects a broader theme applicable beyond racial confines. Bono represents individuals’ universal struggle to guide their loved ones through complex moral dilemmas and personal challenges.
This narrative serves as a profound exploration into the harsh realities of life and the profound impact that deferred dreams can have on individuals, their relationships, and their interactions with the world. It is a compelling response to Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” echoing the poignant question: What happens to a dream deferred? The brilliance of this work is not only enduring but also resounds loudly, conveying its message with clarity. At the end of the day, “Fences” is not merely a story but a reflection, an examination of the human condition that demands attention and contemplation. It functions as a wake-up call to its viewers, urging them to confront the unvarnished truths of life and the consequences that unfold.