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Overcoming Father’s Shadow in Fences

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2011, 24(2), pp.139-165
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

왕영균 1

1동남보건대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper aims to investigate African-Americans’ experiences in a White-oriented society and their influences on the construction of black male masculinity for generations. Black male Americans suffer from difficulties in living as family providers and maintaining their own masculinity in a White-oriented hostile society. August Wilson’s Fences is focused on African-Americans’ oppressed masculinity and deprived history in the American society. Like his other plays, this play traces challenges and travails of living both as black males and as fathers. African-American males have burdens of being responsible for bread-winning as a patriarch and maintaining masculinity. In particular, sons succeed to their fathers’ masculinity; they cannot escape from the shadow of their fathers. Literally, “fences” play a role of social barriers that African-Americans cannot overcome. Troy urges Cory to get a good job instead of going to college with a football scholarship because he doesn’t want his son to experience the same frustration as he did when he could not be an athlete. Troy, as a responsible family-provider, gives a priority to supporting a family over maintaining masculinity. In this respect, fathers’ and male characters’ wandering and agony are deeply seated in the problems of masculinity. Keeping track of the thematic concerns, this paper investigates sociological and domestic factors, which have a great influence on the formation of the male characters’ masculinity. Among those factors, the father figures have the greatest influence on their sons’ masculinity. Fathers’ urging their sons to be masculine may lead to the conflict between fathers and sons, but the sons cannot evade from the shadow of their fathers’ masculinity. It means fathers’ masculinity can be repeated or transmitted to their sons. Furthermore, male characters in this play are experiencing some crises and disorientation in establishing their masculinity because their fathers stick to an outdated concept of masculinity which is not suitable to the reality of their times. As a result, they have no confidence in their masculinity, or they are caught in the shadow of the masculinity inherited from their fathers. This play leads us to challenge critical reception of masculinity in American plays and to open new discourses about gender as well as masculinity.

Citation status

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