The novels, Fences by August Wilson, and O’ Pioneer by Willa Cather describe the lifestyle of a common American citizen. August Wilson focuses on the struggles of the African Americans to fit in a society controlled by racism. The main characters like Troy do not know whether to fulfilling their dreams and ambitions or confront the real life, which faces them each day.
On the other hand, Willa Cather mainly focuses on the daily experiences of people especially in property ownership, neighborliness, life hardships, and individual relationships thus highlighting the theme of realism. Everybody in the world, at least, has an aspiration or dream but to convert it into pragmatism always proves a hard task.
Therefore, in the novel, the Fences, Troy, and Rose struggle to balance their lives as a reality because of their individual ambitions while in O’Pioneer, Alexander fights to fulfill her dreams as a reality.
Themes of Dream Vs Reality
In Act one, scene one, of Fences, Troy highlights the subject of hallucination, unreality, and illusions when he describes how he met with death and the devil.
Although his wife, Rose, and friend, Bono, disapprove his tale, he insists on being immortal, which is unreal. The hallucination about death leads to a conflict between Troy and his wife, but eventually the tussle draws the theme of reality. Furthermore, Troy asserts that he cheated death, but Rose refutes his claims when she says, “Troy lying” (Wilson Act I scene I).
Nevertheless, Troy’s hallucination about death arose when he suffered pneumonia during his childhood. When his wife, Rose, reminds him about the pneumonia, Troy insists on escaping death.
To brush off the tale, Rose says, “Troy, don’t nobody wanna be hearing all that stuff” (Wilson Act I scene I), which means she is not only upset, but also tired of the unrealistic tale. Therefore, Troy thinks he physically fought with death proving his self- ambition as a dreamer and a believer.
In reality can a person fight, cheat or wrestle with death? Troy’s wife calls him to wake up, stop dreaming, and face the reality of life. On the other hand, Rose’s dream is to become rich, which pushes her to invest her money in unscrupulous means like playing numbers. Eventually, she looses her money, which signals the start of her poverty.
Troy is against her game when he says, “You ain’t doing nothing but throwing your money away”(Wilson Act I scene III), which means she should invest her money in real business and not dream of making quick money. Therefore, Rose and Troy live a miserable life because they focus on their dreams forgetting about the reality of life and the changing world.
In the second instance, Troy as a black American, believes education is the only way to achieve a good life. Initially, Troy’s dream was to become a baseball player, but the aspect of racism denied him the chance to explore his skills. On the contrary, his son, Cory, will do anything to join professional football; nevertheless, Troy is against it, which degenerates to a conflict between the two.
According to Troy, historically, no black men played professional football; thus, his aim is to force his children to follow his footsteps, even though, none of his dreams succeeded. A conflict ensues between the two drifting them apart.
Cory says, “Papa was like a shadow that followed you everywhere” (Wilson Act II scene V), which means that Troy’s aspiration is to see his children live his dream. The ambition to pass his historical life to his children seems futile because of the dynamic world.
Among Troy’s philosophies are “You gotta take the crookeds with the straights” (Wilson Act II scene V), which not only builds tension between him and his children, but also leads to frequent disagreements. Similarly, Troy is against supporting his son’s desire to venture into a music career because that is not among his dreams.
According to Troy, racism, discrimination, and inequality killed his dreams and he believes the same aspects will happen to his children; regrettably, he forgets that his children are living in different times. In addition, Troy’s unfulfilled dreams pushed him to be a wicked, selfish, and tyrannizing in his family. He resorts to passing decision without consultation especially to his family members, which leaves him both angry and frustrated.
Finally, Troy’s dream not only kills his future, but also that of his children. On the other hand, in the book, O’pioneer, Willa Cather, the author, focuses on the theme of reality. Alexandra’s aim is to be a successful, rich, and famous farmer, which she not only explores, but also achieves. Alexandra achieves her dream because she owns management skills.
The author highlights the theme of reality by describing the daily lives of the characters. Relationships, land ownership, conflicts, and hard economic times are among the life experiences Cather focuses on in her work.
The impact of the dreams Vs reality
The aforementioned themes describe the human lives encompassing their social, economic, cultural, and personal context. Each of Troy’s family members has a dream, but the diverse ambitions lead to family conflicts. The aim of most people is to live a good life and own vast property; nevertheless, a failure in any of the aforementioned pursuits leads to frustration.
The human nature pushes people to venture into unreal world, as it is the case with Troy. Besides “wrestling with death”, his other dream is to control and mould his children in his own ways, but he fails (Wilson Act I scene I).
Sometimes the human condition is dynamic depending on the situation at hand. Socially, the personal dreams of the characters affect their social and economic lives. For instance, Alexandra rarely commits herself into any relationship; nevertheless, when loneliness (reality) sets in, she decides to marry.
Economically, property ownership is a crucial element the human nature. According to John, “The mark of man upon the land becomes indistinguishable from the marks of nature’s own processes” (Cather 14), which means land is a sensitive issue to people and it may either build or destroy an individual.
In summary, according to August and Cather, every human being has dreams but it takes an individual initiative to turn the dream into reality. Although Troy and Rose dream of living better lives, they use retrogressive means to pursue their dreams, and they fail terribly. In addition, people should strive to live in present and not base their lives on their past as it is with Troy.
Sadly, some dreams like human immortality are unrealistic and people should focus on realism, as it is the case with Alexandra. Finally, each person’s ambitions affect his or her social, economic, political, and personal decisions, as it is the case with Alexandra, Rose, and Troy as outlined in this paper.
Cather, Willa. O’pioneer. New York: Vintage Books, 1992.
Wilson, August. Fences. New York: Plume, 1986.