December 19, 2013

August Wilson’s Raynell Maxson as an Adult?

August Wilson Fences book
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August Wilson’s 1983 play Fences can be described as Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman for another year and another culture. Similar to Salesman’s Willy Loman, Wilson’s protagonist Troy Maxson has troubles pertaining to his career, sons, marriage, and self-worth. Set in 1957, it depicts the eventual downfall of Maxson, a fifty-three year old trash collector who felt a significant blow to his perceived life’s potential by being too old to play professional baseball by the time the color barrier was finally broken by Jackie Robinson. One of the major stressors in Troy’s life was guilt from the affair he had been having with a woman named Alberta. At the height of the play, it is revealed that the mother of Troy’s illegitimate daughter Raynell has died during childbirth, leaving her without a mother. Shortly before her eighth birthday, Raynell’s father dies of a stress-related heart attack, leaving her an orphan to be taken care of by his wife, Rose. Wilson ends the story after Troy’s funeral.

What would have happened to Raynell if Wilson had included even one more act in Fences? Several presumptions about Raynell’s genetic and therefore inevitable future health can be made. Not much about Raynell’s adult health can be envisioned based on her mother’s behavior, because Wilson does not provide information on Alberta equal to the amount he provides about the Maxson family. It can be assumed Raynell has the capacity to be in good shape because of her half-brother Cory’s success playing football. Does this support Raynell growing up to be a duplicate Jo March from Little Women? Jo is the tomboy of the March family, spending her time wishing she could fight in the Civil War with her father. On the other hand, Raynell can be believed to have a strong tendency to stress detrimentally as her father did. Raynell’s inborn tendency to experience stress sets her on a path of life similar to Sylvia Plath’s Esther Greenwood, a frightened and disoriented young woman. While it is true that Raynell’s uncle Gabriel had mental difficulties, these problems cannot be assumed to have passed down to Raynell because Gabriel only had disordered thinking patterns after a head injury that occurred during World War II. Raynell can be assumed to grow up to be an intellectual because it is established that her brother Lyons is a successful and content musician and because Cory has excellent grades. This puts Raynell on a path similar to Dagny Taggart in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a strong, intelligent woman who does not let much get under her skin, familial or otherwise.

Putting together all of the presumed traits of an adult Raynell, it can be said that she will be an athletic, overwrought, and smart woman. There are several leading ladies in literature that fit Raynell’s expected future. Raynell could turn into an adult version of Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as Alice is smart enough to figure out the puzzles laid out for her in Wonderland, all the while wondering whether her family is worrying over where she is. Raynell could turn into an older Juliet Capulet, a precocious woman stuck in the middle of many diverse conflicts. Raynell could end up on a path similar to Celie from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, a woman who appears cheerful and organized even in the face of hefty family and personal history. Raynell Maxson’s possible future life can be compared to many female leading ladies, but one thing is sure – she would have a strong head on her shoulders regardless of the difficulties she has faced.

By Wendy Ambrozewicz

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