Literature Study GuidesFencesAct 1 Scene 3 Summary

Fences | Study Guide

August Wilson

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Fences | Act 1, Scene 3 | Summary



A few hours later Cory returns home, and Rose warns him Troy is angry because he expected Cory to help build the fence. Cory says Troy has been talking about the fence for a few weeks. He and his mother talk briefly about the recruiter. Troy comes home while Cory is doing chores. Troy approaches Rose flirtatiously, but she pushes him away. With this rebuff Troy asks about Cory.

When Cory enters, Troy starts in about the chores. He insists Cory call him "Sir." Cory wants a television, and Troy gives him a lecture about responsibility and money. Cory then brings up the Pirates. While discussing baseball, Troy says African Americans are not given an equal chance. Troy says he could hit as well as Hank Aaron even now, at his age.

Troy brings up the college recruiter. When Cory tells him he has not been working at the A&P, Troy is angry. He does not care that Cory is going to start working on the weekends or that his boss said he would hold his job for him. Troy says he will not meet with the recruiter and Cory would be better off focusing on a trade because "that way you have something can't nobody take away from you." In response Cory says he has good grades, and college will improve his prospects. Despite Cory's objections, Troy insists he go get another job and quit the football team.

Cory asks Troy, "How come you ain't never liked me?" Troy lectures Cory, explaining that he fulfills his responsibilities to his son. He tells Cory he should not worry about whether people like him; instead, he says, "You best be sure they doing right by you."

Rose, who has overheard the conversation, asks Troy why he will not let Cory play football. She says he is doing it because he wants Cory to be like Troy. Troy does not want his son to be like him. Sports let him down, and he doesn't want that for Cory. Rose wants Troy to admit he was too old for the major leagues, but he refuses to do so. Still Rose wonders why Troy cannot see how the world has changed.


When Troy and Cory go back and forth over the television, the interaction seems typical for a father and son. A child wants, and a parent is more concerned about bills. As Cory tries to persuade his father, he wisely brings up baseball, one of his father's passions. Although Cory cannot convince Troy to buy a television, Troy does offer to pay half, thinking this will encourage Cory to earn the money and make father and son partners. This conversation takes place while they are building the fence. One reason Rose wants the fence is to keep everyone together. Therefore, the initial exchange is a promising one, as father and son seem to be collaborators.

Troy insists, however, that Cory keep his job and give up football. Troy's bitter experience blinds him to the opportunities football can provide for Cory. Furthermore, Cory is being responsible as his father has taught him: he makes good grades and has made arrangements to work when the football season is over.But because Cory does not go about things the way his father wants him to, Troy interprets Cory's actions as disrespectful and shortsighted. In reality Troy is the shortsighted one; he does not see beyond his own world. Just as Troy is trying to climb the ladder at work (by becoming a driver), Cory is trying to move up the economic ladder. Troy sees only how sports let him down and believes organized sports will continue to let down people of color.

In this scene Troy touches on the theme of responsibility, a topic that emerges in nearly every conversation with his children. The obsession with responsibility overshadows any other concern Troy may have for his children. Though Cory recognizes Troy's dedication to the family, he clearly feels unloved. Troy believes he is giving everything he has. He is stung to learn that the needs of family do not end with a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food in their bellies.

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