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Literature Study GuidesFencesAct 2 Scene 1 Summary

Fences | Study Guide

August Wilson

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Fences | Act 2, Scene 1 | Summary



The next morning Cory tells Rose he is not quitting the team no matter what Troy says. As Cory goes into the house, Troy and Bono come to the yard. Gabriel was arrested for disturbing the peace, and Troy paid a fine to get him released. While they wait for Cory to come out of the house and help with the fence, Bono brings up Alberta, noting that she and Troy have gotten close. Troy again denies there is anything to the relationship.

Neither Troy nor Cory can understand why Rose wants a fence built. As Bono explains, fences have two purposes: to keep people out and to keep people in. With Cory inside the house, Troy and Bono again talk about Alberta. Troy confesses but says he loves Rose and will treat her fairly. He insists that he will listen to his heart, which tells him "right from wrong every time."

Bono exits and Rose enters. Rose and Troy talk about Gabriel. Rose again suggests Gabriel should be in a hospital, but Troy disagrees, saying a man deserves his freedom. Then Troy confesses his affair and says he is going to be a daddy. Rose is in shock. Gabriel enters and disrupts their conversation. Rose asks Troy why, after she has "tried to be everything a wife should be." She accuses Troy of wishing her and Cory away; she says he should have stayed in her bed.

Troy says he can't give Alberta up; he says with Alberta he feels more daring, as if he could go for something bigger. Rose says he should have held on tight to her, his wife.

Troy says it has been hard to stay in the same place for 18 years, and Rose says it has been hard for her, too. She also has sacrificed. She says Troy only takes and never gives. Her words upset him. After having her say, Rose walks away, but Troy grabs her roughly. Cory enters, grabs Troy from behind, and hits him. Troy is ready to hit back, but Rose intervenes. Instead, Troy tells Cory, "That's strike two."


Troy and Cory are at work on the fence with Bono's help. Neither father nor son has any idea what purpose the fence serves, since both characters feel unhappy in the home and do not see anything worth protecting. Cory feels limited by his father and unable to escape his shadow, which dominates the house. Troy feels confined in the house because of his obsession with responsibility. He takes up with Alberta as a way of freeing himself from responsibility. Bono, an outsider but frequent guest, can see Rose trying to protect the family and what they have. A fence, symbolically, will keep the Maxson family together. This is all Rose wants, a purpose she has dedicated her life to.

Troy is embarrassed that Bono has to explain to him Rose's purpose. His embarrassment and Bono's sincere concern encourages Troy to tell the truth about the affair. In a reversal of roles, Bono now offers advice and instruction to his friend, even repeating Troy's words back to him: "You responsible for what you do." Their relationship, like all of Troy's important relationships, is on the verge of great change. Troy's actions have been revealed as hypocritical and selfish. He has lost his way and soon will lose his family.

When Troy describes the affair and his life, he relies on baseball terminology. He talks about how he has played it safe in life, like bunting in baseball. He talks as if having an affair is a show of daring—like stealing second base, something commendable. Troy's clinging to baseball analogies in some ways shows he has never moved past this disappointment in his life. As Rose has often pointed out, he was too old to play baseball by the time he got out of prison—an idea he has always rejected. A part of him isn't mature enough to accept true responsibility for his choices.

In physically grabbing Rose, Troy reaches out to her symbolically as well, but his gesture comes too late and only makes things worse. Cory's actions show that he will stand by his mother. He has been trying to throw off his father's yoke, and Troy's affair gives him another reason to want to. With Troy's declaration that Cory now has strike two, the tension rises still further.

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