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Double Consciousness In August Wilson's Fences

1025 words - 4 pages

The double consciousness in Fences is representative of both double consciousnesses’ effect and the impact that it has had on the African-American community as a whole. In the play, Wilson presents to the reader a world not yet torn by the strife of racial change. However, its presence is still felt through the actions of Troy Maxson in the play as double consciousness acts both as a metaphorical fence that constrains Troy, as well as an idea that will ultimately destroy much of Troy’s personal life. In Fences, double consciousness is destructive not only because of it affects the black race as a whole, but also because it showcases how the actions of a single person can affect the people the love and cherish most.

Throughout the play, the original definition of the term by W.E.B Dubois affects Troy’s mannerisms, as well as the actions of the entire black community. Troy’s use of hyperbole is dramatically affected because he can only “[look] at [him] self through the eyes of others” (Dubois 5). In an attempt to fill out his largeness, Troy strives to look at himself from the inside, rather than having others who “[look] on in amused contempt and pity”. (Dubois 5). The public and private struggle felt by most African-Americans, including Troy, has advanced to the point where they espouse two conflicting viewpoints at times. This has led to confusion even among blacks, mainly because they do not know why they must do this. This attempt to see himself differently also drives Troy to thumb his nose at the white establishment by proving to the “white man” that he is better than they say he is. The reader can also understand that the oppression of white man factors into Troy’s decisions when dealing with his family. Troy feels that since he was denied a chance to play in the major leagues, than Cory should not be able to receive the same chance. Troy attempts to disguise this feeling as concern for his son, but cannot accept the fact that “[he] was too old to play baseball” (Wilson 39). However, he continues to deny this privilege to Cory because of the selfishness he feels as a result of double consciousness. The same double consciousness that serves the black community so well in their attempts to fight the “whites’ resistance to blacks’ true inclusion in the American fabric” (McWhorter 13) can also have negative effects as well. For instance, when Troy begins to blame the white establishment for the majority of his problems, it further weakens his legitimate claims. The “two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings” (Dubois 1) that are present in Troy appear to be his justification for the mistreatment of his family. Surprisingly, Wilson Pickett had a similar dilemma that he faced while living in the 1960’s. Pickett was a rare breed of person who rejected double consciousness, instead preferring to “not [back] down” (Kot 1). However, Pickett’s main demons were caused by the fact that he was never able to reconcile his public...

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