The final scene is set in 1965, eight years since Corey left home. It is the morning of Troy’s funeral. There is little activity outside the house until the door opens and Raynell comes out into the yard. Rose calls for her and tells her to get dressed. She goes to a small garden plot and tells her mother she is checking to see if her garden grew overnight. Rose tells her that she just has to give it a chance. As Raynell continues to poke at her garden with a stick, Cory enters, dressed in a Marine corporal’s uniform. “His posture is that of a military man, and his speech has a clipped sternness.”
Cory asks Raynell if her mother is home and Rose comes out and tearfully embraces her son. Bono and Lyons come out of the house and marvel at Cory’s transformation. Bono tells Cory that he looks like Troy as a young man. Lyons dotes on Raynell and Rose introduces the girl to Cory, the older brother she’s never met. Rose tries to feed Cory breakfast, but he refuses.
Lyons and Cory talk for a while. Cory is getting married and Lyons tells him that he and Bonnie split up four years ago, about the time that Troy retired from the sanitation department. Lyons encourages Cory to stay in the military and retire early, that there is “nothing out here” for him in Pittsburgh. He tells Cory that he is in a workhouse right now, punishment for a check cashing scheme he was caught in. He remembers that Troy once told him that “you got to take the crookeds with the straights” and so that’s what he reminds himself of. He remembers how he once saw his father strike out three times in a row and then hit a home run right out of Homestead Field. “He wasn’t satisfied hitting in the seats…he want to hit it over everything!”
Lyons goes inside to eat breakfast and Raynell comes back out. She asks him if he used to sleep in her room and he says yes. She tells him that Troy always called it “Cory’s room” and that some of his football equipment is still in the closet. Rose sends Raynell in and stands on the porch talking to Cory. She shows him the rag, still tied to the tree, that Troy was swinging at with the baseball bat when he fell over and died. “Seem like he swung it and stood there with this grin on his face,” she tells him. Cory tells her that he is not going to go to Troy’s funeral and Rose refuses to hear it. He tells her that he can’t “drag Papa with me everywhere I go. I’ve got to say no to him.” Rose demands that he put his anger aside and that he needs to come to some peace about the whole thing. Cory wants to find a way to get rid of Troy, but Rose tells him that he is just like his father.
She tells him that Troy’s shadow in his life was nothing but “you growing into yourself.” She tells him, “Your daddy wanted you to be everything he wasn’t …and at the same time he tried to make you into everything he was.” Rose tells him that she once thought Troy could fill all the empty spaces in her life as a mother and a wife but that Troy was so big, he filled the whole place up. In order to keep his strength, she had to give up some of hers. Taking in Raynell offered her the chance to once again be a mother, to have “all them babies I had wanted but never had.”
Raynell comes back out and asks Cory if he knows about Blue. Raynell tells him that Blue is Troy’s old dog he always used to sing about. Together they start singing Troy’s song about Blue. The final verse is about Blue’s funeral and ends with Blue “treeing possums in the Promised Land.”
Cory gets up and stands by the tree. Gabriel enters the yard. Lyons comes out and tells Rose he knew that the hospital would let him out to come to Troy’s funeral. Gabe tells Rose that it’s time, that he’s “gonna tell St. Peter to open the gates.” He picks up his old trumpet without a mouthpiece and gets ready to blow. He puts all his effort into blowing into the trumpet “like a man who has been waiting some twenty-odd years for this single moment.” As he blows, no sound comes out. Gabe suddenly has a “frightful realization” and is “bare and exposed.” He begins a slow strange dance of “atavistic signature and ritual.” Gabriel pushes Lyons away and tries to howl a song. “He finishes his dance and the gates of heaven stand open as wide as God’s closet.” He yells out: “That’s the way that go!” and the scene goes black.
The final scene of the play can be understood through the same language of baseball that Troy Maxson uses to narrate his own life. In an earlier scene, Troy compared his relationships with Rose, Cory, and Alberta to running the bases on a baseball diamond. It is Troy, however, that the audience now sees has struck out. His first strike came with his unfaithfulness to Rose, the woman who supported and stood by him for half her life. His second strike came when he destroyed his relationship with his son, Cory. It is death that serves as Troy’s third and final strike.
It is important to note the setting for this scene. It is 1965, and though Wilson does not allude to it, much change has been made in the racial dynamic of the United States in the eight years that have passed. This setting, in fact, alludes to what is considered the most important Civil Rights legislation of the era – the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Troy’s death is a line of demarcation. He represents the passing of a particular era of African American history. His generation led the great migration to the North and sowed the seeds of unrest that resulted in great change. Troy’s absence represents an opening of space for a new generation to heal and to grow.
This rite of passage between generations is seen in two powerful scenes in this final act. In the first scene, Cory returns and meets his baby half-sister for the first time. They have nothing in common, no shared experiences or memories, yet are able to together perform the song of Old Blue that Troy taught them. Despite his bitterness and unfaithfulness, the song symbolizes Troy’s ability to bequeath something of his own life and himself to his children.
This scene is also an example of the role of the blues in the play. The blues is a uniquely African American musical form. It is music of sin and redemption; the blues chronicles the emotions of a neglected race in America. Troy’s story is a blues story. He is the maligned character that the world has turned against. Alberta represents his sin and Rose his chance at redemption - a redemption he fails to claim. Blues provides the play’s bitter rhythm and in this final scene Raynell and Cory’s song becomes a blues dirge.
The second important action in this scene is Gabriel’s entrance to blow the trumpet and let Troy into heaven. Earlier in the play, Gabriel assured Troy that St. Peter had his name written in his book in heaven. This would be his ticket through the pearly gates. Gabriel’s trumpet, however, does not emit a sound. Gabriel does not give up and begins a ritual dance. This dance is open to interpretation by the audience, but its power is that it achieves Troy’s redemption. The gates of heaven are opened. Gabriel, thus, is the play’s redeeming figure. He represents the victory of innocence and family bonds. He does not give up on Troy even while his wife and son are ready to be done with the man. Troy becomes the redeemed, though deeply flawed, hero.