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The proverbial message in Denzel Washington’s cinematic version of August Wilson’s Fences (2016) is made clear early and reinforced often. Simply put, the film uses two and a half hours to drive home the point that “one man’s blessing is another man’s burden.” In more than enough instances needed to get his point across, Washington shows the audience the significance of the fence.

[Spoilers] Now although there were blockbuster performances given by Viola Davis and the rest of the outstanding cast, the film primarily focuses on Troy Maxson (Washington’s character), a proud, honorable, and broken man. A man first seen fighting demons and death with gumption and a grin, laughing off anybody calling him out on his flaws (alcoholism and unfaithfulness). The film opens with a look into a rocky relationship between him and his teenage son which eventually boils over into a full out physical brawl. In time, it is revealed that Troy’s relationship with his father was also one full of strain and disdain; but, also that his father was a proud man who took care of his family at the expense of his own happiness.

Happiness; the core necessity to a fulfilled life. Troy is torn between responsibility and being happy. Sometimes, the two go hand in hand. Raising a child can be the best 18 years of a parent’s life, a blessing. Or it could be a miserable extra mouth to feed, a burden. He clearly saw his offspring as a burden even though he took care of them and kept them fed. There was little to no love in his actions, only duty. It was duty that compelled him to marry his wife Rose(Viola Davis). And in time she too proved inadequate to his personal pursuit of happiness.

Troy Maxson, a career garbage man once had dreams of playing Major League baseball but was not afforded a true opportunity in the sport. Baseball made him happy, and all he had to keep him close to the game was an well-worn ball hanging from a tree in his backyard.

Troy,  throughout the film, is constantly being stripped of everything that makes him happy. The woman he was having an affair with died giving birth. He finally got a promotion at work but in the process became distant with his closest friend.

Troy is tragic hero in every sense of the term. The audience felt pathos for him but ultimately he was never able to get out of his own way. At the age of 57, Troy Maxson saw the writing on the wall. This was it. This is was his life. This is where he was to die. With every strike of the hammer and every sawed piece of wood, he was sealing his fate.  For Troy he was not just building a fence, he was assembling his tomb.

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