Drama Essay on Wilson’s Fences

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Drama Essay on Wilson’s Fences

General Directions 

Write an essay based on a minimum of two secondary sources related to the playwright August Wilson and/or Fences.  You may use your upcoming Research Report 3 as the basis for your essay. See the Course Calendar.  In fact, I encourage you to do so; use the research report as a “first draft” of the Drama Essay.

I’m trying to make your writing in the course as painless as possible by giving you the opportunity to use work you’ve already completed for subsequent assignments.  As I’ve indicated, you should consider this essay a potential first draft of the Research Essay due at the end of the semester.  The only difference is that the Research Essay will require three secondary sources.  This is not a requirement; it’s simply a suggestion.  Essentially what I’m looking for is a coherent essay about the play in which in which you incorporate two research sources.  To give you some ideas about how you might approach writing about the play, I’ve put together some thematic ideas for this essay.

As is the case for the research reports, your sources must be limited to the following:  (1) a biographical source about the author, (2) a critical or scholarly outside source that discusses the literary work, and/or (3) a source about a theme or issue which relates specifically to the literary work you’ve chosen.  See the Research Report Directions for details.

You may use any combination of these sources, as long as they are coherently connected in the essay.  The more sources you use in this essay, the less you’ll need to worry about for the Research Essay, if you choose to do so.  However, as is the case for any writing assignment in this course, all sources used must be legitimate. Consider reviewing the Evaluating Sources section offered by the Purdue Online Writing Lab. Drama Essay on Wilson’s Fences

Remember, I’m looking for more than merely biographical information, a summary of what a critic has to say about the literary work, or a summary of a source about a contemporary issue.  In other words, whatever sources you choose to discuss, they all must in some way be explicitly connected to Fences.

Note:  Always keep in mind the essay’s ultimate purpose.  That is, ask yourself what a reader should learn or gain from reading your essay, and make that purpose clear to the reader.



Write the essay as though it were being read by a general college-educated audience. Think like an academic writer by providing the necessary context for an educated reader who is not taking this course. To aid you in getting in this frame of mind, I encourage you to read or review Writing about Literature.

Evaluation Criteria

Review the Academic Essay Rubric.  Perhaps the most important criterion will be how you’ve made explicit connections between the research sources and the author and/or Fences.


The essay should be a minimum of three double-spaced typed pages, using 12-point Times New Roman font and one-inch margins.


Refer to the Short story and drama essays subheading under the Final Grade Percentages heading in the course syllabus.  Your essay must be formatted using MLA Documentation style for formatting, in-text citations, and the Works Cited page.  See this video, which demonstrates how to format a Word document using a modified version of MLA format.

Thematic Approaches to August Wilson’s Fences

Below are some approaches you might take to writing an essay about the play Fences, based on research.

  • How does the play relate to the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement in terms of the themes it addresses? In particular, which characters in the play seem to embody this movement?
  • How does the play convey the idea of the American Dream? How is this term defined?
  • How does the play express the conflicts often inherent in father and son relationships?
  • How is sports used as a metaphor or symbol in the play? What is Wilson’s larger goal in doing so?
  • Is Troy Maxson a tragic hero or a victim of the society in which he lives? Read the essay by Arthur Miller titled “Tragedy and the Common Man,” and use it as the basis for your discussion.


One theme which underlies Fences is the idea of forgiveness―why one forgives and under what circumstances.  As a way of thinking about this theme, consider visiting the On Being Blog from Krista Tippett’s public radio program On Being (formerly Speaking of Faith).  This program, produced by American Public Media, explores ideas about religion, faith, and, well, being from a variety of perspectives.  At the blog, you’ll be able to listen to stories about forgiveness.  Be sure to provide concrete evidence from each literary work to support your ideas.

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