Monday, November 17, 2008

Wilson, Fences

The presentations on Fences today were wonderful and very thorough.  We have some remaining issues to consider, nevertheless.   For a moment, let's think explicitly about gender roles in Wilson's play.  What is the role of the patriarch?  How does the patriarch's role in the play correspond to what had emerged, by the 1950s, as the archetypal role for a male head-of-household within the stereotypical American nuclear family?  How do Troy's accommodations to or refusals of this archetype propel the action of the play?  Also, in the home as a domestic space in the play, what is Rose's role?  In what ways do the expectations for/of the American nuclear family and the realities of life for the 1950s urban African American family intersect in Wilson's play?


Danielle said...

Dominance and leadership are two characteristics of a patriarch. He is the "head" of the family. The 1950s nuclear family of the strong provider father, the subservient domestic mother, and the 1.5 kids was a thoroughly ingrained ideal. The nuclear family was depicted as white suburbanites. The pressure to have a perfect family and realize the "American dream" in the 1950s was extremely intense. In reality, urban African Americans were largely excluded from achieving their goals. They did not have the same opportunities. The play centers around Troy's struggle to live a good life. Troy accepts the financial responsibilities for his family, but he is not emotionally supportive. He treats his family like a duty and an obligation.

Santiago said...

The role of Troy, the patriarch, is to be the provider for the family. His role in the family is very similar to that of the nuclear family in the 1950's. He provides money and security as well as work as a handyman on the fence. Rose plays the part of a typical housewife that cooks, cleans, and mediates. Troy refuses the archetype of the typical nuclear dad by refusing to let Cory play college football and by cheating on his wife. All of the tension in the story is derived from the decisions that Troy makes.

The life of Troy and his family are similar to the standard American nuclear family with the exception of Troy's job (garbage man) and the language that is used. These two exceptions are the intersection of Troy's family with the standard American family for the times.

-Santiago Flores

Anonymous said...

I find myself thinking of the role of patriarch, disobedience of the patriarch and hierarchy of family's are classic. Since the beginning of time, family's have brought up distinct roles for themselves. The man is head of the household and must provide food for the table, while his wife cooks, cleans, and watching after the kids when the man is away. Children, mostly boys, tend to disagree with their fathers for a variety of reasons. Again, in most cases, the daughter is quite, observant and compliant. Often taking note of even the smallest of actions.

I think those gender roles are heightened due to the family's racial/ socioeconomic stamp. Within that era, black communities were rougher, sometimes less stable places to grow up and so the responsibility of making sure children grow-up right is also tougher. Like, everyone, I think Troy just wants to have that nuclear family, but because of his place in life he's forced to worked that much harder for it.

Anonymous said...

The head of the family is supposed to provide for his family and see to it that they are protected. The patriarch in the 1950's was supposed to work and provide food and shelter for his family. Rose plays the stereotypical house wife in the play. Troy's prohibition of Cory to play football is a way of showing that Troy wants to see his son succeed. I'm not saying that Cory wouldn't have succeeded in football, but he does do very well in the marines later in his life. I think that Troy wanted Cory to have a stable source of income. The realities of life for African American families in the 1950's made it harder for Troy to find, and keep a job, and for African American families to find housing. The main motivation of this play is overcoming the harsh racial divides of that time period in America.

-Edward Acree

rmurray said...

I found the dynamics of Troy and Rose interesting. Troy provided the source of income for the family, and generally had the final say in most matters, but the home was Rose's domain. As soon as he got home every Friday she took his money and told him to get inide and eat dinner. When Rose wanted a fence around her house, Troy built it for her. When Rose wanted Lyons to get money, he got it. Yet, all of Rose's little victories became meaningless when Troy brought home news of his infidelity.
After that, Troy still tried to maintain the image of a nuclear family, but there was no enthusiasm behind it.

-Roy Murray