Fences by August Wilson and Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
Critical Analysis of Fences by August Wilson and Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
Critical Analysis of Fences by Wilson and Arcadia by Stoppard
History tends to thrill those living in the current world. Precisely, it teaches people the wrongs that occurred, what people want to be and ways in which they can change. Although the past and present are entwined, they are distinct from one another. Play writers Tom Stoppard and August Wilson have written stories that are closely related to the past and the future. Although the two stories are similar in many ways, they have distinct differences. A major similarity between these plays is that they both examine the present and the past. However, Wilson’s play tells more of the past while Stoppard’s play mirrors between the time periods using complex language.
In both Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and August Wilson’s Fences, the construct and depiction of time is among the most prevalent themes in each story. While each play displays vast differences in the manner in which time is represented, they both use setting to show this significance. Through critical examination of Wilson’s and Stoppard’s work, the audience will understand the importance of time and how comparing the past and the present offers a platform of correlating a complex lens in depiction of the plot.
Although time is maintained in the entire contemporary function in Fences, Wilson adopts the fluidity of the past through memories as a means of creating significance in the play’s prose. Troy Maxson, who is used as the overall guide of the story through time, is viewed as a protagonist and the primary character of the play. His recollections that fluctuate from chaotic to nostalgic establish a point of reference in understanding his daily life and the overall philosophy (Wilson and Seret 20). The play clearly indicates that Wilson uses memory as a critical tool to go beyond the boundaries or fences of the play, to become a social commentary in the past, as well as, the importance of the present versus the past.
The setting of the play, Fences, that took place in early 1950s acts as the main point of reference for the plot (Elam 20). While Fences is tied to a specific timeframe, it uses its character traits, dialogue, as well as the overall storyline to obstruct this examination of the present and the past. Moreover, while the growth of social equality and civil rights become an important topic in the present world, it appears that Wilson’s protagonist, Maxson continues to live by focusing on the past. As a fact, Troy’s hostility only attracts his resistance to let things go, further developing the symbolic resonance of meaning and time in Fences (Elam 25) The bitterness that Troy depicts only improves his inability to let go, further expanding the symbolic resonance of meaning and time in Fences.
Wilson’s examination of time is perceived through a double way mirror. The historical setting, as well as the personal history of Troy, appears to relate with each other. The more Wilson explains Troy’s history and the social context, the more transparent it becomes as to why Troy experience challenges with his past. It is clear that Troy acts as the reference point in examining the degree of time and its effects on personal development. For example, notwithstanding his inability to drive, Troy raises complaints related to his job and demands for the exclusionary driver position that unfortunately is offered only to the whites. Similarly, Troy declines to accept the gradual development of race relations that appears to have caused his past bitterness. Although the main league baseball has begun enrolling to its full inclusivity, Troy depicts his incapacity to change through the frequent verbal deriding of the black players. Essentially, the bitterness he displays directly relates to Troy’s previous experiences. After being released from detention, Troy discovers that his talent in baseball is forlorn not only because of his age but also his race.
While Troy and Cory share myriad of similarities in the field of sports, Troy’s previous experiences have detrimentally influenced him to a level that he is reluctant to acknowledge his son’s talent and possible future. Despite the present development occurring in the modern times, Troy maintains his disbelief that change is possible. While some of the frustrations that Troy experience emanate partly from jealously and love, he depicts signals of his previous fear. In case Cory is able to succeed in his endeavors, then it implies that the world is indeed changing and the whole life of Troy is meaningless.
Essentially, Wilson’s thoughtful manipulation of time through the lens of Troy’s memory elicits great meaning; a discussion that emphasizes on the major effect of the past on the present. This exploration enables Wilson to go beyond the physicality of the US society, focusing on the relationship between historical reference and social injustice (Elam 30). This compression of time through Troy makes history to be considered as a key determinant of the future.
The last chapter of Fences that is set early in the morning of Troy’s last day shows this contrasted impact of the present and past by focusing on Cory. While his return was clearly described in the play, the decision to boycott Troy’s funeral appears to be very important. Just like that of his father, Cory justifies his opposition of the present clearly informing his mother that he cannot drag the father with him. Cory states, it’s the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong” (Bondarenko pg. 12). Essentially, this quote encourages audience to gather their pieces and continue with their lives even after experiencing difficult situations. However, Rose responds with limited support and despite giving Cory the emotional separation he desires from his father, she encourages the father to change perspectives. She discards her initial assertion and tells the ministers the truth that she is not beholden to the past.
In Fences, the conclusion remains captivating and active in the entire play. As a fact, the present and the past are used as a contrasting technique in examining history; the history of society, characters, justice, as well as the development that takes place or can happen from such histories (Bondarenko 2). While Arcadia depicts this in a single way, it totally discards it in the next. Precisely, the existing time and parallels are used to describe characters through two discordant timeframes. Stoppard states, “Time flows through a fixed current significance notwithstanding what a person does or how he or she assess it”. The significance of this quote to readers is that it encourages them make good use of their present time because their current time is a clear indication of what they missed to do in the past. Undoubtedly, Stoppard uses the same anecdotes of the past affecting the present. Moreover, he adopts parallelism to depict the time overlap. This relationship is used a means of telling the truth about the growth in life and the requirements of living within the confines of life.
In Arcadia, Stoppard shows a clear link between disorder and order through the relationship of entropy (Stoppard 20). This parallelism enables Stoppard to accurately connect the present and the past through theoretical understanding. Essentially, the overlapping connections in Arcadia are distinctively aimed at gaining insight into free will and the essence that it is time. The unknown jurisdiction that exists behind confusion should ultimately be contained to understand the present and the past.
Stoppard does not only use characters, themes and setting as way of depicting these theories, but the conclusion made in Arcadia equally stimulate similar ideas. Essentially, the major objective for Stoppard appears to exist in the readers’ mind. While there exist a clear format projected on the play itself, the real meaning inferred by time develops through a person’s view or opinion (Stoppard 30). This contrast between this idea and the play’s changes between historical timeframes indicates that order is an interpretation put on events instead of inherent of events themselves.
In conclusion, although the relationship between the present and the past is comprehensively discussed in both Wilson’s and Stoppard’s works, the methods used to illustrate these features are used differently. Essentially, in Fences, time is registered through a series of referral and sequences. The present and the past is contrasted as device in the shaping of Troy Maxson’s trait and to emphasize the allegory of his relationships. While Wilson uses the idea that the past is influenced by the present, Stoppard stresses on the unpredictability of these responsibilities despite its general influence. Intuitively, in Arcadia, the present and the past are directly linked to the concept of disorder and order. As a fact, the past is a concept that must be thought through with motivation and specificity.
Bondarenko, Lydia. “Scientific World View in Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia”: Deterministic Chaos.” Наукові записки, Кіровоград 104 (2012): 2.
Elam, Harry J. The past as present in the drama of August Wilson. University of Michigan Press, 2006.
Stoppard, Tom. “Arcadia, by Tom Stoppard.” CCM Programs (2012).
Wilson, August, and Seret Scott. Fences. Spark Publishing/Spark Notes LLC, a division of Barnes & Noble, 2014.