When we look at most movies or go to see plays we get a story line, an understanding of what the main charter is dealing with, and in the end, we see how the main character overcomes said challenge. But, do we ever look for a deeper meaning? Or wonder what the author was trying to get across to the audience? The movie Fences was one of the best movies I had seen last year. After seeing it, I began thinking about the symbolism and the theme that played throughout. The fence is one of most recognizable symbols as well as trains and the devil.
The movie was adapted from the play “Fences” which that was written by August Wilson back in the early 80‘s. The story line is about a man named Troy who felt he has been standing in the same lane in his life for the last eighteen years and the story proceeds to show how he dealt with the limitation and the social barriers placed in his life.
The fence symbolized different trials and tribulations for each character. Throughout the movie, the main character, Troy, is building a fence. As I watched the movie I realized that “the fence” symbolized not only the barriers society had placed on the main character but also the barriers he has built between himself and his family. It’s very evident that Troy will not allow his son to play football after school, but insisted his son Cory get a job and work. Later into the movie, the fence symbolized Troy’s wife, Rose’s bond of marriage and her love for her husband. As for Cory, the fence symbolized the mundane life his father wanted him to live. Remember, his father did not want him to play football where he could potentially qualify for a scholarship.
Throughout the movie, “train” symbolized growth and at times lack of growth. As Troy sang a song “Please Mr. Engineer, let a man ride the line“, he was making reference to the idea of trying to grow but not being able to due to barriers he placed in his own life. During the Harlem Renaissance and slavery period, trains became a major symbol of change for African Americans. The train also played a vital role in the great migration of blacks from the south to the north. Lastly, the train also symbolized the passing of time in which Troy feels he has lost when he states he has been standing still for the past eighteen years.
The third symbol in the movie is “the devil”. Some would say that Troy help cast the devil as one of the main characters. The symbol of the devil in literature means death or the come of death. Troy made the appearance of the devil appear as his internal fight with society and racism. Later in the movie, we see that Troy loses this fight due to death.
The major theme of the movie that stood out to me was the inner struggle of coming of age. Troy indicates this by not letting his son play football which could have helped him get a college scholarship, which in the long run helped him become self-sufficient. Troy also showed this struggle when he talks about his “hay days” of being a baseball player who was limited due to societal restrictions. We also see this coming of age struggle when Troy tells the story of his father who he refers to as “evil” and hard to get along with. We see that the issues with his father become generational because of the relationship Troy has formed with his own sons.
Overall, the movie was very moving and inspirational. It really made me think about how many things have changed for African-Americans, as well as, acknowledge the many things that have not changed. Denzel Washington, who played Troy, did a phenomenal job starring in and directing this film! I truly believed he captured the true essence of the original play and brought attention to the societal barriers that African-Americans are facing right now. As we celebrate Black History Month and move forward we need to remember to remove the societal and perceived “fences”. If you haven’t, I highly recommend this movie. Just make sure it’s in your budget! J
BECAUSE OF THEM, WE CAN
Evette Baker, Financial Education CoachNCHEC Certified Homeownership Counselor
NCHEC Certified Homeownership Counselor