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Who is August Wilson and how do his plays in The Pittsburgh Cycle—particularly Fences—reflect the society in which they are set

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August Wilson’s Life and Accomplishments 

August Wilson was born as Frederick August Kittel Jr in 1945 in Pittsburgh as the fourth child of Frederick August Kittel Sr. and Daisy Wilson. He dropped from school at 16 due to racial discrimination and was forced to perform menial jobs to make ends meet. Even during tough times, he wanted to be a writer. Since his mother wanted him to pursue a career in law, he had to leave his house due to disagreement. Later he joined in Army and that too didn't last for long forcing him to return. Post the demise of his father he changed his name to August Wilson to honor his mother.  In the 60's he was largely influenced by Malcolm X and the Blues and converted to Islam for personal reasons. He was married twice with two children. He breathed his last on 2nd October 2005 in Seattle due to liver cancer.  

August Wilson received Pulitzer Prize in 1987 and 1990 for ‘Fences’ and Piano Lesson respectively. For ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ he won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award under the best play category in 1985. In 2001 he was the recipient of Outer Critics Circle Award in the category of ‘outstanding Off-Broadway play for his pay ‘Jitney'. In 1988 he won the Literary Lion Award for his play Joe Turner's Come and Gone. He also earned a place as Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Award. He won the National Humanities Medal in 1999. At the Us Confederation of play writers, he won a Make Shift Award. His latest award was the Tony Award for Best Revival for Fences.  August Wilson is one of the most prominent personalities to date among theater and plays lovers. His most successful period has been 1980 and early 1990s. The last work of the legend was Radio Golf in 2005, just a little before his death (August-wilson-theatre.com, 2019).

Brief Summary Of The Pittsburgh Cycle

- Gem of the Ocean – due to African-American clashes a local mill is set on fire resulting in local unrest and deaths. Aunt Ester is 285 yrs soul cleaner who takes care of Solly Two King and Citizen Barlow. Solly kills Caesar, the law enforcement authority and leaves the house however he is chased down and his mortal remain is nursed by Aunt Ester. However after understanding the true essence of his fight Citizen take up the role of Solly and aid his people towards freedom. 

- Joe Turner’s Come and Gone – the primary essence of the play is identity, migration and racial discrimination. First, Every charter in the play search for their identity either based on gender or profession or race. Second, Due to various issues people are forced to leave behind their homes and tolerate discrimination in a new land. Third, the African and American conflict is always present. 

- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – the play focuses on how a lack of patience and respect for difference leads to the downfall of a music band. Since Ma arrives late for the recording, small talks start between the other characters leading tension which ultimately results in destroying the dreams of everyone. 

- The Piano Lesson – the play revolves around a piano. Willie is determined to sell the piano to buy Sutter's land. However, his sister Berniece is against Willie’s thought since the piano has the carved face of their ancestor. Due to unnatural forces in the land, the idea of purchasing the land is withdrawn, restoring peace in the family. 

- Seven Guitars – it focuses on seven African-American guitarists and the death of one of them. Blues returns from prison and signs a new record after an expected hit of his song. To make his wrong right, he travels to Chicago. However, his path of doing right, itself is wrong. 

- Fences – Fences like all other plays focuses on the black and white issues faced by society. The true essence is how African-American aim at becoming better than they are and what they deserve. Though here a couple of garbage men wonder why they can't be truck drivers and not garbage collectors (American Masters, 2019). 

- Two Trains Running – the play is positioned posy civil rights movements in the country. The play touches on many aspects of human rights violation faced by Black in America. It focuses on migration, culturally differences, discrimination, urban unrest, and more particularly the social status of Black women.  

- Jitney – in Pittsburgh official cabs don’t ply hence unlicensed taxi is the only option out. The play focuses on the everyday routines and the life history of the drivers and other stakeholders in the station. This also focuses on how the law is largely inclined and favorable for the whites.

- King Hedley II – the play concentrates not only African-American issues but also on the general economic and market condition in America especially the market supply and demand. The story is about how an ex-con tries his best to sell a stolen refrigerator to support his family and himself.  

- Radio Golf – this is the last play wherein multiple characters from the past is used. The play focuses on modern-day politics and legal process which is generally biased and one-sided. 

Era And Location Of Fences 

The play is no exception to the other plays of August Wilson. The play revolves around the injustice and hardship faced by the black in America. The location of the play is Pittsburgh in Maxson family. The family members try to flee from the south towards the north. The motto is to move to the north to among the urban population to enjoy the privileges of an urban citizen. However, their dreams are shattered due to lack of support and assistance from the government. Though Lincoln ensured to abolish slavery in the country however enough wasn't done to protect and upgrade the lives of the slaves. The era was such that the people were out of slavery world and entered a whole new world with no support from the government (Mazelis, 2019). 

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