Fences and Fathers


By Marquis Butler

The African American father and son dynamic in the film Fences has given me the opportunity to reflect on my relationship with my father.

Fences is a story that set during the 50’s in Pittsburgh, Troy Maxson lives with his wife Rose and their son Cory. Throughout the film, Troy and Cory’s relationship is tense.

Failed attempts at reaching his dreams have left Troy bitter and unreceptive to the love from his family, especially his son.  When Cory gets the opportunity to receive a football scholarship to college Troy becomes over protective of his son, in the end his fears rob Cory of his dreams at playing professional football.

Troy’s fear steams from his greatest disappointment, that he wasn’t able to transition from the Negro Leagues into Major League Baseball. Though he was a star in the Negro Leagues, he believes he couldn’t transition into the major leagues because of racial discrimination when it could have been because of his age.

Troy refuses to let his son play football, claiming that he doesn’t want Cory to suffer from the same heartache.

When I saw the movie Fences it felt like I was looking into a mirror.

The only difference between our families is that Cory lives in a house with his Father alongside his Mother after Troy has an affair. My Father abandoned my family when I was born and started a new family. Ironically, Troy and my Father both had baby girls after their infidelities, but maybe it’s God’s way of giving them back their innocence. A lesson they learn that makes sure that their daughters would grow up pure as a daughter of Eve.

According to Claudia Nolan “the father-son relationship in Fences explores themes common to parenting, including responsibility, legacy/inheritance, and mortality.”

Troy’s refuses to allow his son to play football and instead insists on him learning a skill that will guarantee him a job.

“In his love for Cory, Troy denies Cory his college career and football scholarship, fearing the same limitations that halted his own baseball career.”

Troy’s past has left him unable to accept that his son could have a career in professional football.

Witnessing the relationship of a black father and son play out on screen gave me the opportunity to reflect on the relationship I have with my Father.

I don’t have a relationship with my Father because of his personal philosophy of never wanting a son. Due to his past demons, he has decided not to have a relationship with me.

For more than 21 years, my father cannot look at me without seeing his own failures. Whether out of fear or love, he doesn’t want to see me accomplish things he failed to complete himself. From continuing in higher education to playing a varsity sport’s team, these are all things my father never got a chance to complete because of the lifestyle he chose to live.

Movies like Fences allow the viewers to relate Troy Maxson’s on screen family to their own and view their family dynamic from an outsiders perceptive.

After watching Fences, who is the Troy Maxson in your life? Are you similar to Troy?

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