Fences Summary and Analysis of Act I, scene 3


Scene three opens four hours later. Rose is hanging laundry on the line and Cory comes in from his football practice. Rose warns him that Troy “like to had a fit with you running out of here this morning without doing your chores.” Cory asks if Rose told Troy about the recruiter and Rose says that she did but that Troy “ain’t said nothing too much.” Rose insists that he go and start his chores and make some lunch.

Troy enters the yard and sneaks up on Rose, scaring her. He is very affectionate with Rose and makes some comical sexual advances, but Rose tells him, “Go on…I ain’t studying you.” Troy calls for Cory and then picks up a board, starting to saw and build the fence. When Cory comes out, Troy demands to know why he had not finished his chores before leaving the house that morning. Cory doesn’t answer but only picks up a board and begins to saw.

Cory asks his father why he doesn’t own a TV. Troy is incredulous over this question but Cory insists, “Everybody got one…They got lots of things on TV. Baseball games and everything. We could watch the World Series.” Troy wants to know how much a TV costs and Cory replies they are two hundred dollars and “That ain’t much, Pop.” Sarcastically, Troy tells him, “Naw, it’s just two hundred dollars.” He points to the roof of the house and explains how it has been ten years since the roof was tarred. When the snow comes, it will seep inside. The moisture will rot the wood and soon it will be leaking all over them. He asks Cory how much he thinks a roof costs, but Cory doesn’t know. Troy tells him, “Two hundred and sixty-four dollars…cash money. While you thinking about a TV, I got to be thinking about the roof....”

Cory insists that Troy isn’t as poor as he makes out to be, but Troy tells Cory that all he has to his name is seventy-three dollars and twenty-two cents in the bank. Cory tells him he could put the TV on credit, but Troy says, “I ain’t gonna owe nobody nothing if I can help it. Miss a payment and they come and snatch it right out your house.” He cuts Cory a deal; if he can get a hundred dollars he will put the other hundred down on a TV. Cory insists he will show his father that he can get the money.

Cory changes the subject to talking about the Pirates, Pittsburgh’s baseball team. Troy says that he doesn’t think about the Pirates because they have an all white team except for “that Puerto Rican boy…Clemente.” Cory tries to convince Troy that black players such as Hank Aaron and Wes Covington are playing more in the big leagues, but Troy dismisses this idea. He tells Cory that he could hit forty-three home runs just like Hank Aaron right now. Cory insists he couldn’t and Troy says, “We had better pitching in the Negro leagues. I hit seven home runs off of Satchel Paige. You can’t get no better than that.” He tells Cory that he is done talking about the subject.

Troy changes the subject to Cory and asks him if he is being recruited by a school to play football and Cory tells him he is. Troy will have to sign the permission papers in order for him to be recruited. Troy wonders why Cory isn’t working at his job at the A&P instead, and Cory tells him, “Mr. Stawicki say he gonna hold my job for me until after the football season” and that he is going to work weekends instead. Troy tells him, “ain’t no need for nobody coming around here to talk to me about signing nothing…The white man ain’t gonna let you get nowhere with that football noway. You go on and get your book-learnings 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.”

Distraught, Cory tells Troy that someone else has already gotten his old job at the A&P. Troy tells Cory that he is a “fool…to let somebody take away your job so you can play some football.” The two have a contentious back-and-forth over Cory not calling Troy “sir,” and Troy asserts his authority over the boy: “Nigger, as long as you in my house, you put that sir on the end of it when you talk to me!” Troy reminds him that he takes his responsibility to his family seriously, that he works hard and puts “up with them crackers every day” in order to do so. He orders Cory to go back down to the A&P and get his job back.

Cory leaves and Rose returns after overhearing the conversation. Troy tells her, “I don’t want him to be like me! I want him to move as far away from my life as he can get.” This means moving away from sports, but Rose implores him to admit that the reason he was excluded from playing in the major leagues after integration was because he was too old. Rose tells Troy, “Everything that boy do…he do for you. He wants you to way ‘Good job, son.’ That’s all.” Rose tells him that times have moved on and that the world has changed, but Troy insists that he’s only doing the best he can by giving all his sweat and blood to support the family. “That’s all I got, Rose. That’s all I got to give,” he tells her.


Troy and Cory’s conversation about the television set is both an example of father-son bonding and a sign of just how much the world is moving on without Troy. The television set is a symbol of the success of modernity and the ability of African Americans during this time to advance (however limited those advancements might be) in social and economic ways.

The television, as Cory describes it, is fundamentally changing how people interact with the world. His argument that “they got lots of things on TV” is his way of telling Troy that the world outside of Pittsburgh is much bigger than Troy remembers it. It is recognition that the world has changed and continues to be changed. Cory understands his own future is dependent on Troy’s understanding of this change and being able to convince him of this is paramount if Cory is to ever play football in college.

Troy, however, is resistant to the idea of the television. It is not just that he fears the world’s advancement, but it is also that he does not quite understand it and refuses to deal with it. Troy prefers to keep his thoughts on the domestic scene. He reminds Cory that the price of the TV is almost what it would take to re-tar the roof. Troy uses the example of the TV to shame Cory for not taking his own domestic responsibility seriously. A conversation that begins as a simple father-son lesson in economics turns into an argument in which Troy fights to strip his son of his future manhood and Cory further develops his deep hatred of his father.

The argument between Cory and Troy in this scene also reveals Troy’s deep disappointment with his own sports career. The audience begins to see that this, in part, is one reason Troy is so obstinate about signing a paper for Cory’s scholarship recruitment. Troy played in the Negro Leagues, the segregated baseball league, and he boasts to his son that he and his teammates back then were better than almost all of the white or black major leaguers of the present. Troy feels as though he never really got his chance to show his true talents to the world. He can find no specific cause and so develops his own deep mistrust of the power held over African Americans by white America.

This distrust is what fuels the passion in one of the key scenes of the play. After arguing that Cory should get his “book-learning” so that he “can work…up in that A&P or learn how to fix cars or build houses” instead of playing football (which Troy obviously sees his son is passionate about), Cory asks his father why he never liked him. Troy is surprised by the question and, instead of answering in a loving way, becomes cruel and militaristic with his son. He demands to know what law says he has to like him. Troy’s life lesson to his son is valid -- a person must accept the responsibilities given to them -- but his delivery of this advice is hurtful to both Cory and Rose and further alienates them from him.