The next morning, Cory stands by the tree in the yard and tries to hit a baseball with a bat. His swing “is awkward, less sure” than Troy’s. Rose enters and Cory tells her that he is not quitting the team. Rose tells him that his father went down to the police station to bail out his uncle Gabe who had gotten into some trouble. Cory goes back into the house just as Troy and Bono come into the yard, complaining about how the police arrest Gabe just so that they can get the fifty dollar bail money that Troy pays to get him out of jail.
Bono begins to help Troy with the fence, but Bono complains that the wood is too hard, that he should have used a soft wood like pine. Troy tells him that this is good outside wood that might last forever. Bono gently chides Troy for having “got tight” with Alberta. Troy resists the chiding and Cory enters and begins to help Bono cut the wood. Cory says that he doesn’t know why his mother wants a fence, and Troy echoes this sentiment asking, “What the hell she keeping out with it? She ain’t got nothing nobody want.” Bono tells them, “Some people build fences to keep people out…and other people build fences to keep people in.” Bono explains that Troy has been his guide throughout the years and that he has taken his own pleasure in seeing Troy find happiness in his work and family. He implores Troy to hold on to Rose, saying that he doesn’t want to see him mess up.
Troy tells Bono he wasn’t intentionally looking for anyone other than Rose but that Alberta “just stuck onto me where I can’t shake her loose.” He insists he isn’t ducking the responsibility of his actions, but that he can’t quit being with Alberta either. Bono leaves and Rose enters. Troy informs her of Gabe’s troubles and Rose thinks that perhaps putting him in a hospital would be best for him. Troy insists that he wants to see Gabe be free.
Troy tells Rose that he has something to admit to her. He circuitously tries to explain his affair with Alberta and finally tells her he has fathered a child with the woman. Rose is stunned by the news. Gabe enters, holding a rose he tries to give to Rose. Rose asks Troy why he is coming to her with this after eighteen years of marriage. Gabe keeps interrupting their conversation, trying to show off his new quarter and explaining how Troy came and rescued him from the bad men downtown. Rose sends him inside for a piece of watermelon.
Rose tells Troy she might have expected this kind of behavior five or ten years ago but not now. She angrily tells him she has “tried to be everything a wife should be…Been married eighteen years and I got to live to see the day you tell me you been seeing another woman and done fathered a child by her...My whole family is half.” Troy tries to be realistic about the situation, telling her there is nothing he can do and that “we can talk this out” but Rose is indignant.
Troy tells Rose that Alberta gives him a different sense of himself, that he “can step out of this house and get away from the pressures and problems…be a different man.” Troy says he has been in a pattern, trying to be responsible for his family, and that along the way her forgot about himself. He tries to use baseball analogies to explain his circumstance and that he has fooled the world by bunting when he met her. “I stood on first base for eighteen years and I thought…well, goddamn it…go on for it!” Rose can only tell him he should have stayed in her bed.
Rose tries to explain her own hopes and dreams, how she buried all her feeling in him and held on to him even through her darkest times. She tells Troy he gives to them, but he also takes from them as well. This makes Troy angry and he declares he has given all for his family. Troy grabs Rose and makes threatening gestures. Cory enters the yard from behind and grabs Troy, throwing a glancing blow against his chest. This bold acts stuns both Cory and Troy. Troy starts towards Cory, but Rose holds him back. Troy tells Cory that he now has two strikes on him and that he better not strike out.
Cory’s awkwardness with the baseball bat is a metaphor for his own feelings of inadequacy in living up to his father’s expectations. Though Cory excels in football, his father’s swing does not come naturally to him. Wilson visually captures the classic tension between father and son. The son desires to overtake the father and yet in Troy Maxson’s life, there is no room for anyone but him.
Bono further elaborates on the play’s chief metaphor. In handling the wood for the Maxson’s fence, Bono is surprised that Troy didn’t get soft pine wood. Troy responds that the hard wood he bought may just last forever. This exchange highlights Troy’s own unreasonable feelings of invincibility. He compares his own life to that of the fence he is building, meant to be a symbol for Troy’s emotional hardness. Troy’s fence becomes not just a barrier to his relationships with his family but also a monument to his failings as a father and husband.
The scene moves into one of the play’s most dramatic confrontations. Troy admits to Rose, while she is going about her daily duties as a housewife, that he has been unfaithful to her. It is with some irony that Troy has such a difficult time telling Rose that he is going to be a father since she could question whether he has been much of a father to Cory or Lyons. The tone of the play now becomes angrier and more sorrowful and will remain this way through the second act. Rose cries out to her husband that she tried to be everything for him that a wife should be.
The audience now sees Troy for the truly selfish person that he is. The first act was spent with Troy waxing eloquently, if harshly, on the necessities of responsibility and duty to family. It is clear now that those words were hollow. When Rose tries to reach out to him, Troy only retreats further into himself, claiming that he was with Alberta because she gave him feelings that his family could not give him. Troy is now a man of inconsistency.
It is important to note the choice of language that Troy reverts to after admitting his affair. Troy attempts to explain his actions in the mode of a baseball announcer. This only underscores his self-centeredness, however. Troy creates a game out of his life and places himself as the star player. He uses baseball analogies to try and explain the kind of life that was handed to him versus the kind of life that he desires for himself. The analogies, however, fall flat and Rose is unconvinced. Rose tries to explain to him how his selfishness takes from her and Cory as well, but Troy is not willing to hear this. Troy’s anger almost explodes into violence before Cory diverts his rage. He once again uses baseball terminology to threaten Cory but it is Troy who is now the one striking out.