Teaching August Wilson's Fences. Have students identify and describe the important relationships on the play.

The examination of the relationships will enable students to examine the portrayal of the characters and aid them in understanding some of the central questions of the play. The play leaves many of the ethical questions up for interpretation, and it's up to the students to do that interpretation to make some kind of sense of the play. Some possible relationships that the students might identify include: Rose & Troy Troy & Gabriel Troy & Cory Troy & Bono Troy & Alberta Troy & his father Divide the students up into groups to address the social issues addressed in the play. All students will get a chance to participate in their groups, even if they don't participate later when the groups report to the larger class. In order to address the complicated social questions the play brings up, I pose the following questions to the groups. Students should explain their answers to show how they are using textual evidence to support their point of view. Do Rose & Troy love each other? Have students read out the dialogue between the two on pp. 67-71. Did Troy take advantage of Gabriel for his money? Would institutionalization be better for him? Was Troy right in discouraging Cory from pursuing a career in football? What is the importance of Troy and Bono's daily ritual? Did Troy love Alberta? How did Troy's father influence him? Each group should report their discussions on the relationship they chose. Was there disagreement in the group? What were the specific points of disagreement? Think about what Cory says about Troy at the end—doesn't Troy dominate the play, as he dominated the character's lives. Why is that? The language of the play—is there significance to it? Why use the vernacular and does it work? Is it realistic and convincing? Why don't we use it when we write in class? Would students get an A if they used Wilson's language in their research papers? Why not? Goes all the way back to Aristotelian diction, I think. The “Old Blue” song—is it about Troy? Dying? He sees himself as a kind of old dog that can't learn new tricks—treeing coons in heaven. See his complaints about how his life is a routine of the same old stuff.

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