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Critical Review of Literary Plays


Critical Review of LiteraryPlays

Fences (1986), Our Town: A Play in Three Acts (1965)and Asteroid Belt (2010)

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18 December 2019

: Fences (1986), Our Town:A Play in Three Acts (1965) and Asteroid Belt (2010)

Question 1: Troy Maxson’ Flaw in Fences(1986)

Fences (1986) was written by the American playwright, AugustWilson with a mid-20th century setting. Presently, thepalsy is one of the most acclaimed American plays espousing athematic context of racial identity and discrimination forblack/African citizens in the US. This racial theme alongside severalsimilar sensitive themes enabled the play to win a Tony Award for thebest play and ultimately, Pulitzer Prize for Drama, all in 1987. InFences (1986), the protagonist is a strong-willed, determinedand persistent 53-year-old family head, Troy Maxson. Maxson lived inPittsburgh with his wife Rose and son Cory, although he also hadanother son and daughter, Lyons and Raynell respectively, out ofmarriage.

Troy’s quest for a better future, and a destiny that was exactlythe opposite of his past, is the background upon which the play gainsits increasing sense of tension and dilemma. His past was full offailures, losses and frustrations. This troubled past leads toconfrontations with his family and employers. Although he earns therecognition as the first black person to drive a garbage truck, Troyloses his family due to his autocratic nature. Regardless of theplot, his decisions and actions, Troy’s life is shaped by his pastfailures and mistakes which significantly influence his outlook onlife and relationship with those around him.

One of the most significant critical reviews for the play is intracing and justifying the flow of its protagonist. Troy’s mainflaw is a complex integration of flaws that have their backdrop beinghis skin color, being a black person in the US. Being a black youngman in his time, he was born too early in the American society to bea professional baseball player. What may seem to have been bad timingof his youth in the racial America, becomes bad timing because of hisskin color. The consequence was missing out on a chance to play inthe Major Leagues. In agreement, Bono, Troy’s friend remarks that,“you just come along too early&quot (Wilson, 1986, p. 77). Thiswas reaction to Troy opposition to his son’s (Cory) plan to playbaseball since Troy’s perception of the game during his time.

A racially negative society (anti-black), explains Troy’sbitterness with life. His skin color ensured that, although he wasthe best player in his time, he could not be drafted into MajorLeagues. Such drafting process was limited by an anti-black racialprejudice. This explains why Troy had a sense of envy working againsthis son when he said that he had “seen a hundred niggers playbaseball better … than JackieRobinson” (Wilson, 1986, p. 82). Despite being black andsuccessful, Jackie Robinson only earned envy from Troy. Consequently,Troy does not believe that some of the best players in the leaguecould have made it professionally had the drafting of AfricanAmericans been allowed during his early years of professionaldevelopment in baseball. It is therefore natural that the success ofother black players such as Robinson is a sore subject (even envious)for Troy. This is because being born at the wrong time (bad timing),had denied him an opportunity to gain proper recognition and money.

Question 2:

Comparison and Contrast between Our Town: A Play inThree Acts (1965) and Asteroid Belt (2010)

Reviewing Our Town: A Play in Three Acts (1965) and AsteroidBelt (2010) from a comparative and contrasting perspective gainprominence in theme and characterization. Besides the fact that bothplays are similarly themed and feature a combination of livecharacters and dead characters, there are several distinctivedifferences in tone, perception of characters and conversationsbetween the characters. In both plays, the playwrights use both deadand living characters to present the grief felt by friends and familyof the deceased in both plays. In Our Town: A Play in Three Acts(1965), George visits the gravesite to mourn the death of Emily.Carly’s parents, Jay and Sue, arealso worried about their daughter’s whereabouts since it is alreadymidnight and raining yet their daughter is not home (Lauren,2010, p. 46). The parents are concernedthat their daughter was not a good driver therefore, questioning herability to drive through the rain and at night. These thematicperceptions of doubt, protectiveness and short-term perspectivesinfluence and can be derived from their speech.

In characterization, both plays have a number of similarities in thedepiction of characters. However, the perception of these characterstowards the living is quite dissimilar. Emily, Mrs. Gibbs and SimonStimson in Our Town: A Play in Three Acts (1965)disapprove George’s grief and prostration at the gravesite viewinghis actions as a waste of time. In the meantime however, the deadbelieve that the living should primarily enjoy their lives for aslong as it lasted. Indeed, one woman among the dead proclaims that,“Goodness! That ain`tno way to behave!” (Wilder, 1965, p. 111),describing the scene in which George sinks to his knees at Emily’sfeet. Simultaneously however, Edith does not share in Gorge’ssorrow. To Edith, “they don`t understand” (Wilder, 1965,p. 111).

Deductively therefore, the living and the deaddiffer in their tone and perspectives even during speech. From thetone of their voice, the dead characters in Our Town: APlay in Three Acts (1965) do not want theliving to grief but continue enjoying their lives. This perceptioncan be contrasted with the tone of Carly’s voice as she explains toher parents about her accident although they are not aware of herpresence. Due to her love for her parents, Carly “reaches out to”them in an attempt to inform the parents that the fatal accident thatwas already happening at the time (Lauren, 2010, p. 64).


Lauren, F. (2010). Asteroid Belt. Milwaukee, Wisconsin:Applause Theatre Book Publishers.

Wilder, T. (1965). Our Town: A Play in Three Acts.London: Samuel French, Inc.

Wilson, A. (1986). Fences. New York: Samuel French, Inc.