Literature Study GuidesFencesAct 2 Scene 2 Summary

Fences | Study Guide

August Wilson

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Fences | Act 2, Scene 2 | Summary



Scene 2 takes place six months later with Rose and Troy on the porch. Rose complains that although Troy comes home each night, he is not really there. She says she can't live like this, but Troy says he is doing the best he can, giving Rose all his pay. He says he just wants a little time to enjoy life. Rose asks when she gets to enjoy her life. She expects more from him.

Troy wants to go to the hospital to visit Alberta, who may be in labor. Rose reveals that Gabriel has been removed from Miss Pearl's and taken to an institution, and she says she saw Troy's name on the papers. Troy will now get half of Gabriel's disability pay, the other half going to the institution. Troy claims he didn't know what he was signing. But Rose accuses Troy of going back on himself, and she says he will have to answer for it. He mistreated Gabriel just as he mistreated Cory.

During their conversation the phone rings. It is the hospital. Alberta died during childbirth, but the baby is fine. Troy asks Rose for some space. He walks around the yard and talks to Mr. Death. Troy says he is going to build a fence to keep Death out, and when it is time to get him, it had better be ready to fight.


At this point the family has been completely shattered. Troy and Rose have become like roommates who barely speak. Yet for Troy things seem not that different from how they ever were: He continues to take care of his responsibilities as he sees them by coming home from work every night and giving his paycheck to Rose. Yet Troy's insistence on spending time at the bar so he can "have a little time to himself" fools no one. It is obvious he will be going to see Alberta. Rose will simply have to find her own pleasure in life.

Rose isn't the only one Troy has left behind. Gabriel is noticeably absent, and Troy has neglected that relationship as well. Possibly Troy tells the truth when he says he didn't know what he was signing, since he can't read. Yet this claim is at odds with Troy's usual self-portrayal as someone who is powerful and in control. Earlier he accepted a job as a driver despite not having a license; nothing was going to stop Troy. Now he rejects responsibility for an arrangement that benefits him.

The truth is that Troy has more obligations with Alberta and a baby on the way. Just as when Lyons and his mother first came into the picture, Troy cannot handle his obligations. It appears that Troy has gone against his own principles, selling his brother out to gain control of his disability pay.

News of Alberta's death leads to another confrontation between Troy and Mr. Death. The fence Rose wanted built to keep the family in has never been built; with the family shattered, it no longer has any purpose in Rose's eyes. But Troy now wants the fence to keep Death out. Troy puts up walls and draws clear relationship boundaries when it comes to his family. Now he is trying to do the same thing with Death.

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