This line is spoken by Troy's oldest son, Lyons. Troy chides Lyons for being lazy and poor and for not wanting to get a real job in the sanitation department or with some other company. Lyons spends his nights in the jazz clubs as a musician. Troy, however, has only a limited say in how Lyons lives his life because Lyons was raised by his mother while Troy was in jail. Though Troy teases his oldest son, the audience sees that Troy begrudgingly respects his son for being his own man and for doing what he loves even at the expense of stability. It is a choice that Troy feels he was never able to make.
"You go on and get your book-learning so you can work yourself up in that A&P or learn how to fix cars or build houses or something, get you a trade. That way you have something can't nobody take away from you.
Troy speaks this line to his youngest son, Cory, as they work together to build the fence that Rose has been asking for around their yard. Troy is troubled by Cory's interest in sports and the opportunity that he is being given to play football on scholarship at a college. Troy feels that his own years playing professional baseball in the Negro Leagues was time wasted; that the white powers of control conspired against him and prevented him from being recognized as the great player that he was. In response to this disappointment, Troy demands that his son give up a dream that he believes will only break his heart.
"Cory: How come you ain't never liked me?
Troy: Liked you? Who the hell say I got to like you?"
In this conversation between father and son, Cory unearths Troy's deep seeded emotions towards his family. Though he does love his family, and his tenderness and concern are on display in other scenes, Troy has come to a point in his life where he finally becomes broken by the responsibility of caring for them. Responsibility, in Troy's world, is the most noble calling of a man. This responsibility, however, has caused Troy to become a bitter man. He cannot "like" his son because of his own desire that Cory not become like him.
"(He sings.) Hear it ring! Hear it ring! I had a dog his name was Blue...You know Blue was mighty true."
This is a line from a song that Troy created about his childhood dog, Blue. Troy feels a special kindred to this old dog because it licked and cared for him after his father beat him and kicked him out of the house as a child. Troy took his dog north with him and, in a sense, Troy loved Old Blue more than anyone because the dog exemplified traits of loyalty and dedication to which Troy aspired. Old Blue becomes a metaphor for Troy's own failings as a husband and father. In the play's final scene, Cory and Raynell eulogize their dead father by singing of Blue's redemption in heaven.
Some people build fences to keep people out...and other people build fences to keep people in.
This line occurs during a conversation between Troy and his friend Bono. Here, Bono succinctly sums up the overarching metaphor of the play. Though Troy initially asks why Rose would want to build a physical fence, Bono understands the symbolic importance. Rose builds her symbolic fence to keep her husband and her son together. She attempts to keep her family inside the home. Troy, on the other hand, builds symbolic fences of dedication and responsibility, aspirations so high that neither he nor his sons can live up to them. These fences push people away and, in the end, Troy loses his wife and son because of the lofty standards he cannot reach.
"Got me two rooms. In the basement. Got my own door too. Wanna see my key? ...That's my own key! Ain't nobody else got a key like that."
This line is spoken by Troy's brother, Gabriel Maxson, during the play's first act. Gabriel represents Troy's conflict over protecting the ones he loves and giving them their freedom. Gabriel, like Troy, is concerned with being his own man and controlling his own destiny, which is why he moved out of Troy's house. However, Gabriel was wounded in World War II and is disabled to the point where he is unable to care for himself. Troy and Gabe's relationship becomes tragic as Troy sells out Gabriel, sending him to a mental hospital and taking his monthly disability checks from the government to support his own family.
"Alright...Mr. Death. See now...I'm gonna tell you what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna take and build me a fence around this yard. See? I'm gonna build me a fence around what belongs to me. And then I want you to stay on the other side. See? You stay over there until you're ready for me. Then you come on. Bring your army. Bring your sickle."
This quote, spoken by Troy after he hears the news that his mistress has died giving birth to his daughter, is a reminder to the audience that Troy's struggle is not just with his son or his wife but also with forces beyond his own earthly power. Wilson uses archetypal themes from classical Greek theater to depict the struggles of Troy Maxson. In this case, it is the struggle between heaven and hell over the soul of one man. Troy is in a constant battle with death throughout his entire life. It is a battle for his own destiny and the right to control his own fate.
"Your daddy wanted you to be everything he wasn't...and at the same time he tried to make you into everything he was. I don't know if he was right or wrong...but I do know he meant to do more good than he meant to do harm."
Rose Maxson speaks these lines to her son Cory after Troy's death. Cory struggles with being released from his father's hold. Cory finds that his father's control extends beyond the grave. In this scene, Rose attempts to offer some measure of redemption for her husband. Here, she sums up Troy's conflicting relationship with his sons. He strongly desired that his sons not be forced to endure the disappointment that he himself faced during his life, yet he also could not stand for Cory, the boy he raised, to overtake him as patriarch.
"I wanted a house that I could sing in. And that's what your daddy gave me. I didn't know to keep up his strength I had to give up little pieces of mine...It was my choice. It was my life and I didn't have to live it like that. But that's what life offered me in the way of being a woman and I took it."
Rose Maxson, who speaks these lines in the play's final scene, is contradictorily a figure of repressed femininity and also a figure of great feminine strength. She admits in this scene that her life as a housewife and mother was forced upon her by Troy, yet she insists that at no point did she ever lose her ability to choose. The domestic life was what she chose and in this scene she owns that choice for herself. Some of the play's critics have noted that Rose is the least dimensional of Wilson's characters, but this scene shows that glimpses of Rose's complexity are able to come through.
"That's the way that go!"
Gabriel Maxson speaks the play's final line. After Troy dies, Gabriel shows up at the house with his trumpet, ready to "tell St. Peter to open the gates." As he tries to blow his trumpet, no sound comes out and Gabriel begins a strange dance. It is a dance of grief and trauma but also a foolish dance. Wilson turns the traditional ending of the play on its head; the protagonist, Troy, does not have the play's final word. Instead, it is the "fool," Gabriel, who ends the play with a simple declaration that fate has finally taken its man. Gabriel does not let anything keep him from redeeming his brother and sending him into heaven.
Fences Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Fences is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Troy Maxson is a man who takes seriously his responsibility for his family. His seriousness also becomes his greatest liability. Troy is a man caught between his own desire for freedom, embodied in his affair with Alberta and his fathering of an...