Fences Summary

Fences by August Wilson

     The play Fences, written by August Wilson, begins in 1957 and focuses on the protagonist Troy Maxson. An African-American man in his fifties, Troy has been married to his wife Rose for eighteen years, and they have a teenage son named Cory. Troy also has a son from a previous relationship, Lyons, who is in his early thirties. Lyons enjoys playing music in a band; however, he often comes by Troy's house asking to borrow money because playing music isn't very lucrative. Lyons lives nearby with his wife Bonnie. Bono is Troy's best friend whom he met when they served time in prison together. Troy was arrested in his early twenties for killing a man whom he was trying to rob to help support his lover and his young son, Lyons. In prison Troy learned that he was an excellent baseball player, so when he got out, he tried to become a professional, but by then he was too old and had missed his chance. Troy believes though that it was due to the discrimination against African Americans that kept him from playing.

     Soon after he left prison, he met Rose, and he settled down for a typical life. He was able to buy a house with the money that his brother Gabe received from an injury to his head that he endured during the war. Troy helped take care of his younger by allowing him to move into his house. Later though, Gabe wanted more freedom, so Troy let him rent a room from Miss Pearl, a neighbor. Gabe would sometimes unintentionally cause trouble and end up in jail, so Troy would need to bail him out. Due to his head injury, Gabe had delusions and believed he was the Archangel Gabriel. Eventually, Gabe became a nuisance, so Troy put him in a mental institution.

     Troy constantly butts heads with his son Cory who is also a strong athlete, like his father, and wants to go to college on a football scholarship. Due to Troy's bad experiences with baseball, he doesn't think it's realistic for Cory to pursue playing football. He tells him he must focus on working. When Cory quits his job at the A&P during football season, Troy tells him to get it back. When he doesn't, Troy feels his son has lied to him so he refuses to sign the papers from the recruiter that could help get Cory into college and later has his coach cut him from the football team. Cory deeply resents his father holding him back as he thinks Troy doesn't want his son to turn out better than he did. Later, Cory finds his dad hurting his mother in the heat of an argument, and Cory pushes him down. The next time Cory and Troy argue, Cory comes at his dad with a bat, which leads to Troy kicking him out of the house.

     Troy's relationship with his wife, Rose, is just as rocky. From the beginning his friend Bono seems to notice that Troy often flirts with a waitress at a local bar named Alberta. Eventually, Troy confesses to his wife that he got Alberta pregnant. Rose is devastated. She can't believe that after eighteen years of marriage, he would cheat on her. When the baby arrives, they learn that Alberta died giving birth. Troy is left with a baby girl whom he implores Rose to help him raise as he can't do it alone. Reluctantly, Rose agrees, saying that she will help with the child, but he should no longer consider their relationship to be one of a husband and wife. As Rose distances herself from Troy, she goes deeper into her faith and becomes more involved in the church.

     The last scene jumps ahead in time about seven years. Raynell, Troy's daughter with Alberta, has grown up never knowing her brother Cory since he left and never returned. He comes back in the last scene, however, for Troy's funeral. Cory has been serving in the military during this time and has made a decent life for himself although it's not the one that he wanted. Lyons also comes to house, having been giving a one-day release from prison to attend his father's funeral. He admits that his wife left him when he began cashing fake checks, which landed him in jail. Gabe has also been temporarily released from the mental institution. Still thinking he's the Archangel Gabriel, Gabe tries to blow the trumpet he always carries at the end of the play to help his brother gain entrance into heaven; however, the trumpet has no mouthpiece and doesn't work. Instead, he howls and does a dance, which somehow succeeds in opening the gates up for Troy.

     This family shows many of the problems that African Americans faced during this time dealing with racism, lack of money, insufficient job opportunities, and the stress of holding it all together. It ends somewhat sadly with most of the characters in worse situations than where they began, almost all due to Troy's influence on their lives. The only one with true potential for success is Raynell since Troy is gone, and she can make her own decisions without his influence.

Related Links:

Fences Quiz
Fences Quotes
Fences Act 1 Scene 1 Summary
Fences Act 1 Scene 1 Quiz
Fences Act 1 Scenes 2 and 3 Quiz
Fences Act 1 Scene 4 Quiz
Fences Act 2 Scene 1 Quiz
Fences Act 2 Scenes 2 and 4 Quiz
Fences Act 2 Scene 5 Quiz
Fences Act 1 Scenes 2 and 3 Summary
Fences Act 1 Scene 4 Summary
Fences Act 2 Scene 1 Summary
Fences Act 2 Scenes 2 and 4 Summary
Fences Act 2 Scene 5 Summary
Fences Important Characters
Literature Summaries

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