Analysis of the Play Fences and the Adaptation Film

Published: 2021-07-19
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Wesleyan University
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Arguably, August Wilsons play Fences gave the American stage one of the most renowned characters. As Wilson originally writes in the play, Troy Maxson, who is an uneducated sanitation worker and a former Negro League Baseball player is depicted as a multi-faceted tragic figure from the mid-1950s Pittsburgh of Wilsons childhood. This being the case, in the adaptation of this play, Denzel Washington understands the kind of largeness portrayed in Wilsons play and is hence portrayed a shadow that Troy casts over the people in his life while tracing his epic downfall in the silhouette (Wilson). With this regard, it is evident that the screen adaptation of August Wilsons play Fences by Denzel Washington is practically the literal translation of Wilsons words. Thus, the core intent of this essay is to make an analysis in comparison of Fences the text and the movie.

To begin with, the original context of the play significantly matches that of the subsequent adaptation in the film. For instance, the backstory of the movie clearly depicts how a person's race was not only considered as an animating force but also as a complicating factor in Wilsons life and also how the race related complexities are still dominant in the modern day today. This is evidently substantiated in the fact that, in the film, most of the action takes place in one of the familys back yard and in a house that in the play, originally belonged to the Maxsons of Pittsburgh back in the mid- the nineteen fifties. Particularly, Troy Maxson, whose role in the movie is taken by Denzel Washington, is an African American man in his early fifties. Although he is a sanitation worker, Maxson puts every effort in trying to fight the racist restrictions that deprived him of so many achievements such as becoming a driver (Page-Kirby).

Besides, originally, the central image of the play Fences mirrors that of a fence that Troy, the protagonist, promises to build around his backyard. He, therefore, asks his son, Cory who is both disgusted and afraid of his father to help him build the fence as he yearns for his approval. According to Wilson, although it takes Troy a couple of months to erect it, the fence substantially symbolizes the rapidly growing rifts between himself and the rest of his family. Additionally, to a broader perspective, this particular fence is a deep representation of the race divisions as well as the wider gender rifts that were incredibly dominant in the 1950s. On the other hand, in the film, although Washington plays Troys role, Viola Davis, who plays the role of Rose, Troys wife, is depicted as a woman who represents the entire womanhood journey in the contemporary world. In the film, as the wife, Davis, unlike in the original play has a great role of making her marriage work. This is evidently in contrast with what was portrayed in the original play where gender was a key limiting factor especially in marriages in the 1950s.

With reference to the plays plot, Troy, who is the main character of the play is depicted as an avid player and a diehard fan of baseball. However, despite his great love and passion for this sport, Troy seems to have given up on the many opportunities that are seemingly being offered by the American dream. According to Wilson, at a very tender age, Troy was kicked out of home after which he has encountered a myriad of hardships that caused him to steal regularly. As a punishment for his crimes, Troy was jailed for 15 years, a period in which he learned that he had a natural talent for the baseball sport. In a similar regard, throughout the film, Washington, who takes Troys role constantly refers back to the numerous oppressions and injustices which he had to deal with right from a very tender age. In this regard, he tries to take back both the power and control of his life and the feelings of being passed over changes his personality into that of a man who is evidently obsessed with extorting from the life he was living, an equal measure of what he was deprived of. However, in this attempts to make up for the many injustices in his life, he ends up bringing oppression into the lives of others, among them his son, who he denies the chance to meet his college football recruiter (Washington).

In both the play and the film, Troy, whose role is played by Wilson and Washington respectively, are a symbolic representation of the struggles that are faced by a young individual due to the family related shortcomings that he encounters. In the play, Wilson indicates that Troy enters a very symbolic stage of his growth and development right at a very young age. This, in essence, is also depicted in the film when Washington breaks the bonds with his father right in his teenage years and when he desired to build up both his identity and individuality. Besides, in the play, it is evident that Troys mother, who ought to have played a great role in his growing up is absent. This being the case, Troy genuinely yielded to his father and acknowledged him as an authoritative figure, and a clash between the two is stemmed from their desire to win the attention of one female.

A similarity between the original play and the film Fences is also depicted in the primary theme which is the importance of forgiveness. In this regard, both the playwright, Wilson, and the film director, Denzel Washington, portray how it is exhausting to hold grudges. With the two playing Troys role. They show that holding grudges only holds you back from succeeding in life. Besides, Cory, Troys son desperately needed to come to terms with the fact that holding grudges against his father was only limiting him. In both the play and the film, Cory was not able to succeed in life until he got away from the element of holding grudges after which he was able to perceive the world differently and possibly find love (Purvis).

In conclusion, based on the context and plot of both the movie and the play, it is with no doubt that the screenplay for Fences has a great similarity with the actual play by August Wilson. With reference to Denzel Washingtons contention, he believed that it was his fundamental role as an actor to use Wilsons exact words to ring out the same precise meaning as the original play. Besides, based on the occurrence of events in both the film and the original play, a great similarity is depicted in the primary theme which is the power of forgiveness.

Works Cited

Fences. Directed by Denzel Washington, Perf. Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson . 2016. IMDb, 2016.

Page-Kirby, Kristen. "The Cast of Fences Approached the Play in a New Way for the Film Adaptation - The Washington Post." Washington Post, 26 Dec. 2016, Accessed 14 Aug. 2017.

Purvis, Xenobe. "Fences: How Do You Adapt A Play By August Wilson?" Litro Magazine Stories Transport You, 11 Feb. 2017, Accessed 14 Aug. 2017.

Wilson, August. Fences ; and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Penguin, 1988.

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