The American Dream Deferred in Fences

Rose, I done tried all my life to live decent … to live a clean … hard … useful life. I tried to be a good husband to you. In every way I knew how. Maybe I come into the world backwards, I don’t know. But … you born with two strikes on you before you come to the plate. You got to guard it closely … always looking for a curve-ball on the inside corner.


It seems like a central premise of my favorite major American plays is the failed American Dream. In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, for example, Willy Loman grapples with the reality that his son Biff Loman is average. In Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Walter constantly talks of investing his father’s insurance money but (spoiler alert!) a friend’s betrayal kills his hopes for a better life and future. In Tennessee Williams’ A Glass Menagerie, Tom Wingfield, an aspiring poet, hates his day job at a shoe warehouse. In August Wilson’s Fences, Troy Maxson is an African-American sanitation worker whose washed-up dreams of becoming a baseball pro embitter him and all those who love him.

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