Missy Dehn Kubitschek, in “August Wilson’s Gender Lesson,” argues that “Fences” is meant to be nothing more than another African American play from the past two decades that works to examine the gendered interactions between men and women in the African American community, showing how each of the different genders work to separate themselves from the other (1994). She further argues that “Fences” is not only another example of the differences between the genders within the community, but that the differences are “derived from their unconscious acceptance of an implicitly Eurocentric view of separate male and female spheres” (Kubitschek, p. 1029). While it is clear that Kubitscheck has identified the root of the issue in “Fences,” specifically the differences in gender interaction in the African American community, it must be argued that the differences are not derived solely from the view of separate male and female spheres, but are derived from different spheres of interaction between the male and female members of the culture. This is not to say that when it comes to certain interactions between the two genders that Kubitscheck’s main premise is not correct, for it is, as may be seen in certain scenes, as when Troy discusses his responsibility to Cory in terms of the father and son dynamic; however, when Rise and Troy argue both genders may be seen to be utilizing the Eurocentric viewpoint, though Troy likewise utilizes a more Africanized viewpoint at the same time, and, in looking at the scene in which Rose speaks of her relationship with Troy, she utilizes, not the Eurocentric viewpoint, but the stereotypical viewpoint across all cultures of the differences between the male and female paradigm.
Cory, having been taught by his mother, before she left, perceives the world as a result of the Eurocentric view of the family dynamic, feeling as though his father owes him a different type of relationship than the one that he provides Cory with. Troy, on the other hand, does not subscribe to a Eurocentric worldview of the family, and as such believes that Cory should be happy that he, Troy, has filled the familial responsibilities that he has, as he sees them – specifically the provision of food and shelter. In this manner, it is possible to see that Cory has adopted the more Eurocentric viewpoint of the nuclear family, while Troy’s viewpoint is more Africanized, seeing the father as the role of the provider only, not as a nurturer.
When Rose and Troy argue about his extramarital affair, Rose calls Troy out on his behaviors, stating that he should have been with her instead of “lay(ing) in bed with another woman” (Wilson, p. 1001). In this, Rose is holding to the Eurocentric view of the marital state, wherein any action outside of that between the two parties joined in matrimony is adultery, while Troy does not see it quite this way, adopting the more Africanized viewpoint on the matter, wherein polygamy is far more common. At the same time, Troy utilizes Eurocentric metaphors regarding the game of baseball for the purposes of attempting to justify his actions. Such a cross utilization of cultural differences indicates that not only is Troy conflicted about his extramarital actions, but that he is attempting to hide such confusion from Rose through the utilization of a metaphor that she will not fully grasp; though Rose knows enough of the game to understand the gist of what Troy is telling her, she is unable to see past the surface to see the conflict that he truly feels about the matter, something that he would rather keep hidden from her, otherwise he would have spoken more plainly on the matter.
When Rose discusses her perspective on her relationship with Troy, she does not utilize a Eurocentric metaphor, but instead opts to revert to the basic metaphor that is utilized by all cultures to describe the differences between the two genders, the stereotypical role of the male versus that of the female. Rose refers to the fact that she has “planted a seed and watched and prayed over it,” that she has in essence planted herself inside of him, hoping that she will bloom into that which she was meant to be (Wilson, p. 1002). The planting metaphor and the seed metaphor, combined with the imagery of the woman as a nurturer is a common viewpoint of the male and female dynamics present across all cultures. This is not something strictly Eurocentric, though it is present within that cultural viewpoint, but common regardless of the culture that the individual views.
Wilson, it is possible to see, is not solely attempting to present the gendered differences as Eurocentric, determined by which member of the conversation has adopted the more Westernized perspective, but rather is concerned with the display of overall differences between the genders, regardless of the cultural lens through which the genders are being viewed. Though Kublitschek is correct to a certain degree, the fact of the matter is that this is not the only cultural viewpoint that should be utilized when attempting to discern the differences between the two genders in African American culture as described in “Fences.” It is the tip of the iceberg, yes, and it is one method that may be utilized to view the tale, but it is not the only cultural viewpoint through which “Fences” should be analyzed.
- Elkins, Marilyn Roberson. August Wilson: A Casebook. New York: Garland, 1994. Print.