Fences | Study Guide

August Wilson

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Course Hero. "Fences Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fences/.


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Fences | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


In Fences, Act 2, Scene 2, why does Rose want to know whether Troy is coming home on Friday?

Friday night is the end of the work week, the time when people can relax and have fun together. At the beginning of the play, Friday night was still a festive event on the Maxson porch, even though Troy's affair had begun. In Act 2 after Troy reveals his affair, things have changed. Troy has been going through the motions of being a father and husband. When Rose asks Troy if he is coming home on Friday, she's asking him if he will be present for his family—not just physically and financially, but emotionally. Troy's response is cold: "I don't know what to tell you, Rose. I'm doing the best I can." While Rose wants intimacy, Troy can fulfill only his minimum responsibilities.

When Troy learns of Alberta's death in Fences, Act 2, Scene 2, how does his attitude about the fence change?

Troy is devastated by Alberta's death and angry with his old nemesis, Mr. Death. Though he worked on the fence halfheartedly throughout Act 1, never really understanding the point of it, he now vows to complete the task. His reasons are different from Rose's, however. Bono says Rose wants the fence to keep the family together. Troy wants the fence to keep Death away. In one sense Troy has already built a fence, metaphorically, between himself and his family. The only one he seemed to allow inside his fence was Alberta. With her death he seems ready to make his emotional isolation from those around him complete. Building fences is Troy's way of suppressing the pain of loss, but it has been disastrous for his family relationships.

How does Troy's request of Rose to care for Raynell in Fences, Act 2, Scene 3 show he has lost power?

When the play begins Troy is surrounded by a rapt audience, people who respect him and hang on his every word. At this point in the play, Troy is alone. The only person left to listen to Troy is Raynell, a baby who has no ability to get away from him or any idea of what he is saying. The infant is totally dependent on him; she is Troy's responsibility, but he is unequipped to care for her. His request to Rose to help care for Raynell is an admission that he cannot handle the responsibility alone—he needs someone's help.

In Fences, Act 2, Scene 3, why does Rose accept Raynell but reject Troy?

When Troy asks Rose to take in Raynell, she agrees to do so, using biblical language to explain why: "you can't visit the sins of the father upon the child." Her explanation echoes the play's epigraph, a verse by the playwright: "When the sins of our fathers visit us / We do not have to play host." It also reiterates a theme about fair play; the child is not responsible for the father. She does, however, reject Troy, even though he says, "You and them [boys] and this child is all I got in the world." It's not that she can't forgive "the sins of the father." Up to a point she was more than willing to take Troy back, even while he carried on his affair. Now with Alberta's death, the affair is over; but Troy's inability to be emotionally present for his family has broken the couple's bond.

How does the setting of Fences, Act 2, Scene 4 contribute to the sense of Troy being alone?

In earlier scenes Friday night is a time of togetherness. Troy and Bono would sit around, talking, joking, and drinking. Lyons would stop by, listen to the stories, and ask his father to come hear him play music. Gabriel often appeared as well. Rose would join them, offering to feed family and guests. It was a buzz of activity. This Friday night is different. Gabriel is now in an institution. Lyons comes by and returns the money he owes to Troy, but he leaves before Troy even comes home. When Cory sees Troy, he leaves. Rose, who declared to Troy in Act 2, Scene 3, "you a womanless man," is running off to do her own thing as well. Finally, Bono stops by—for the first time in a while—to say hello. Troy tries to coax him to stay, but he has a new Friday night routine. Having the scene set on Friday night makes Troy's fall from grace even more striking.

How does Troy's intransigence lead to his final confrontation with Cory in Fences, Act 2, Scene 4?

Troy's intransigence literally and figuratively leads to his final confrontation with Cory. His refusal to meet the college recruiter and sign the papers stifles Cory's dreams. This decision has embittered Cory and left him feeling trapped and ready to lash out. If Troy had been willing to bend, considering the situation from Cory's perspective and recognizing that times had changed, the state of tension between father and son would have been resolved. Instead, as Troy warned in an earlier scene, Cory has two strikes against him. The slightest provocation will cause him to strike out. When Cory wants to enter the house, Troy will not move. He seems to be daring his son to start something. If Troy had simply moved aside, or let Cory go rather than insisting he say "excuse me," there would be no fight, and the family dynamic would have stayed as it is—tense. But the situation is untenable, and something has to give. Unfortunately, it's not Troy. Just as he refused to bend to Cory's wish to play football, he refuses to let Cory past him on the porch. The conflict that erupts leads inevitably to Cory's third strike—and the son leaves home for good.

What causes Cory to engage in a physical confrontation with his father in Fences, Act 2, Scene 4?

Although Cory has clearly been frustrated and angry with Troy since he refused to meet with the college recruiter, he did not take action against his father. Even in this scene, it is Troy who instigates the conflict, but he has grown weaker since the beginning of the play, diminished and pathetic in Cory's eyes. In his drunken state, Troy seems like a "crazy old man." Cory declares, "You don't count around here no more." He judges his father harshly for sending Gabriel away while taking his disability pay. He also hates his father for cheating on Rose—and knows Rose will no longer lift a finger to keep peace between father and son. Troy is ready to stand up to his father, and without Rose to intervene, the conflict comes to a head.

Why does Troy taunt Death after the confrontation with Cory in Fences, Act 2, Scene 4?

Each time Troy feels a sense of loss he rails against Mr. Death—first when Alberta died, and now with Cory gone. Instead of combating these losses by strengthening his bonds with those closest to him, his solution is to push them away, build a fence around his feelings, and renew his defiance of Death. When he says, "I can't taste nothing! Hallelujah! I can't taste nothing no more," he seems to be saying that nothing can move him; his capacity to be hurt or touched by others is gone. The fence he has built around his feelings is complete. In his determination to suppress emotional pain, he ensures his emotional loneliness.

In Fences, Act 2, Scene 5, what is the significance of Raynell's garden?

Gardens are traditionally a symbol of hope. People plant seeds with the expectation that in time something will blossom. Raynell herself is like those seeds; she represents hope. She has not been scarred by Troy's demons and will not be affected by them as she grows up. She will grow up in a world of expanding opportunities for African Americans, with a loving mother determined to "give her the best of what's in me." Raising Raynell has brought Rose, who "wilted" after first learning about Troy's affair, hope and joy. The child has given Troy a chance at redemption as well. He was absent when Lyons was growing up and clashed with Cory. With Raynell, Troy received a third chance to be a father.

How is Troy redeemed at the Maxsons' house in Fences, Act 2, Scene 5?

There are a number of ways Troy is redeemed in the final scene. Rose recognizes what was good in Troy and even intends to use him as a role model when raising Raynell. In addition she takes responsibility for her part in the unhappy marriage: "It was my choice." By quoting Troy, Lyons is carrying on his memory and acknowledging that his father had wisdom that is worth sharing. Bono's mere presence is a way of showing that he still cares for Troy. Cory's ultimate decision to go to Troy's funeral shows that he forgives his father. Finally, Gabriel's opening the gates of heaven for his brother confirms that Troy has been redeemed.

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