‘‘The Fence’’ can be read as an allegory, a story with a moral, ethical, or religious lesson in which the characters represent things or abstract ideas. Mother and Father represent two opposing attitudes about society’s responsibility toward those who are different or less fortunate. One attitude is a clear ‘‘us and them’’ division between people. This is represented by Mother, who hides behind the curtains, is hesitant to share her belongings, and insists on building a barrier between the family (‘‘us’’) and the vagrants (‘‘them’’). The opposing attitude is represented by Father, who feels it is appropriate to help the vagrants and welcome them into his home. Father’s motivation is his religious belief—this is why he tells Mother that faith in God is the only true protection they have. Rangkuti’s story advocates for adopting Father’s attitude of brotherhood between people and eschewing boundaries.
The end of the story teaches the lesson that boundaries bring about the very harm that they seek to prevent. Through his characters, Rangkuti is asking his readers to consider the consequences of dividing segments of society from one another. He uses his characters to show how social division turns people into enemies and invites violence, chaos, and unhappiness. The lesson espoused in ‘‘The Fence,’’ then, is that people have a religious duty to help, welcome, and embrace those who are less fortunate.
Point of View
Point of view refers to how the author presents a story to the reader. It is the perspective from which the story is told. ‘‘The Fence’’ is told from the first-person (‘‘I’’) point of view of the child. This means that all the events in the story, including the discussions between the adults, are seen from the point of view of the unnamed child narrator. The point of view can be identified in the very first sentence, which refers to the old man sheltering under the eaves: ‘‘Through the window I saw him hunched over as if bowed by the weight of the cane in his hand.’’ The advantage of this point of view for this story is that the child does not have too many preconceptions about how life should be; for the most part, he or she simply listens and reports on the arguments made by his mother and father and does not take sides, although he or she does in the end influence Father into putting up the fence. Although a first-person point of view would allow a focus on the narrator’s thoughts and feelings, the author chooses not to do so in this story, preferring instead a more objective approach that tells the story through dialogue and puts the focus on the central theme of the building of the fence and its consequences.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 31, Hamsad Rangkuti, Published by Gale Group, 2010