Fences Summary and Analysis of Act II, scenes 2, 3, and 5


Scene Two

It is six months later. Troy walks out of the house and Rose stops him. He protests that she has not wanted to talk to him for months and now she does. She wants to know if he will be coming home after work tomorrow. He tells her that he is probably going to cash his check, go to the Taylors', and play checkers. Rose exclaims that she cannot live this way. Troy tells Rose that he is going over to the hospital to see Alberta. She is having her baby. Rose tells him that the state authorities went over and took Gabe from Miss Pearl’s that afternoon on Troy’s orders. Troy says that she is lying by saying that, but Rose says she read it on the papers they submitted to her. “You did Gabe just like you did Cory,” she tells him. “You wouldn’t sign the paper for Cory…but you signed for Gabe.” She tells him that he signed his brother's life away for half his money.

The phone rings and Rose leaves to answer it. She returns a moment later and tells Troy that Alberta has had her baby. Troy is excited and wants to know the gender. Rose tells him that it is a girl and Troy tries to leave to go see her. Then, Rose tells him that Alberta died having the baby. Rose is worried about who will bury her, but Troy is defiant. He enters into “a quiet rage that threatens to consume him.” He has a conversation with “Mr. Death” and tells him that he will build a fence around his yard to keep what belongs to him. Death can bring his army, but Troy tells him that he “ain’t gonna fall down on my vigilance this time.”

Scene Three

Three days later, Rose sits on the porch waiting for Troy to come home in the evening. Troy enters carrying an infant wrapped in blankets and they stand in silence. Troy tells Rose that the baby has no mother, but Rose is indignant. Talking to the baby, but speaking loud enough for Rose to hear, Troy says that he feels no guilt for what he has done because, “it felt right in my heart.” He pleads with Rose to take in the baby because she is family and is all he has. Rose concedes and tells Troy, “this child got a mother. But you a womanless man.”

Scene Four

Two months later, Lyons comes calling to pay Troy back twenty dollars that he owes him. Rose is preparing to go to church and tells Lyons that Troy will return shortly. Cory enters just as Lyons is leaving and Lyons tells him he is sorry to have missed his graduation. Cory says he is trying to find a job now. Cory goes to the tree and picks up the baseball bat and swings at an imaginary pitch. Troy enters and the two eye each other before Troy goes into the house.

Troy tries to ask Rose where she is going, but she has none of it. Troy begins to sing the old song about his dog Blue and Bono enters. Bono tells Troy he can’t keep up with him now that he has his promotion and that he’s thinking of retiring in a few years. Troy says he’s been thinking the same thing, but Bono can’t believe it since Troy has the easier job of driving the truck now. “It’s ain’t the same, Bono,” Troy tells him. “It ain’t like working the back of the truck. Ain’t got nobody to talk to…fell like you working by yourself. Naw, I’m thinking about retiring.” As Bono leaves, Troy remarks that he heard Bono bought his wife a new refrigerator. Bono says he did since Troy kept his end of the bargain and built his fence.

Troy sits on the porch and Cory enters the yard. He tries to get past Troy on the steps, but Troy blocks his way. Cory becomes frustrated and Troy insists that Cory say “excuse me” like a polite person. Troy shoves Cory back as he tries to go by and Cory shouts, “I live here too!” He tells Troy that he isn’t scared of him and that “you don’t count around here no more.” Troy becomes angry and tells Cory that now he is grown and that he should act like it. “…When you get out there in the alley…you can forget about this house. See? Cause this is my house.”

Cory angrily retorts that Troy never did anything for him except “try and make me scared of you.” He tells him that Rose is scared of him too and this angers Troy even more. Cory dares him to fight. He tells Troy, “You took Uncle Gabe’s money he got from the army to buy this house and then you put him out.” Troy advances towards Cory and Cory picks up the baseball bat. Troy tells him that he’s going to have to use it and kill him if he picks it up and Cory dares him to come at him again. Troy grabs the bat and the two struggle over it. Troy is stronger and takes the bat and stands over him, ready to swing. He stops and tells Cory to leave. Cory says to tell Rose he’ll be back for his things and Troy tells him, “They’ll be on the other side of that fence.” As Cory leaves, Troy assumes a batting posture and again taunts Death.


The second scene of Act Two begins six months later. Very quickly the audience is able to see the ways in which Rose and Troy’s life has unraveled. She, apparently, has not spoken to him in months. For his part, Troy has made no effort to make amends and has presumably spent his days doing just what he is doing on this day, cashing his check and playing checkers. Troy has also begun to let his other relationships and responsibilities lapse. Rose tells him that Gabe is being taken to a mental hospital and she accuses him of sending him away in order to keep his money. It is a damning accusation.

Rose is then put in the difficult situation of bearing the news of Alberta’s death. Her worry about who will bury the woman foreshadows the ways in which Rose takes on Alberta’s responsibilities in life, namely raising her daughter. In this turn of events, it is Rose that is shown to be the truly responsible member of the Maxson family. Wilson’s play makes a strongly feminist statement here. While up to this point the audience had only seen Rose as the passive domestic partner, it is clear now that Rose is truly the foundation of the family. This becomes more true as she takes Raynell as her own.

Troy’s conversation with “Mr. Death” is a dramatization of his fear of dying. In several instances, most notably his bout with pneumonia, Troy casts himself as narrowly escaping death. For Troy, death is something that is always near to him. Only through his wits is he able to escape it. Alberta’s death is a kind of wake-up call for Troy. It is a realization that he has fallen down on his duties as a man and as a human being. Troy’s fence now becomes a fence of safety. Instead of keeping his family away from him, his fence is now meant to hold everyone inside.

The next scene, in which Rose takes Raynell as her own daughter, is powerful in expressing both what Troy has gained and lost during the play. Troy has obvious affection for his child. The fact that he has owned his fatherhood and taken in the child shows that he is not completely heartless. However, he is also powerless and can do nothing but ask for Rose’s help. Troy’s selfishness remains just below the surface during all of this and he cannot help but protest by explaining why he does not apologize.

Troy’s infidelity is a symbol of the destruction of the American Dream. Wilson’s play is, in effect, a critique of that dream. Though the American Dream has been defined in many different ways, Wilson uses his play to show the audience the ways in which the American Dream has been defined for the African American community by forces outside of that community. Troy’s life would seem to be following that dream – he is slowly rising into the middle class, he has a family, and even owns his house which will soon have a picket fence. This dream is an impossibility, however. It is Troy’s flaws that destroy this dream. As a universal type of character, Wilson is commenting on the ways that the flaws of humanity make the American Dream an impossibility.

The complete destruction of this dream occurs during Cory and Troy’s battle in the front yard. Cory is blunt in forcing Troy to confront his own inadequacies and yet it is Troy who is still the more powerful man. In this scene Troy becomes his father. He kicks Cory out of the house just as his own father kicked him out of his boyhood home. In a cycle, Troy has become the thing that he hated most.