What might Gabriel's final, “frightful realization” (1281) be, and why, according to Wilson’s stage directions, might “the Gates of Heavens stand open as wide as God’s closet” only after that realization and the “atavistic” dance that follows it? Be sure to provide textual evidence to support your discussion.

Gabriel's final, "frightful realization" might be the understanding that he is not the messenger angel of God, and that it is not up to him to decide if Troy is to be let into heaven and that judgement day has come. After his atavistic dance, the gates of heaven stand open because Gabriel has instinctively rejected the Christian tradition and morality.

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Gabriel serves as a highly symbolic and surreal character in the events of Fences. After sustaining a severe head injury, he begins to believe that he is literally his namesake, referring to the messenger of God. Ironically, it is perhaps only this disconnect from reality that allows him to have a somewhat poignant relationship with his brother, Troy.

In the final scene of the play, Gabriel decides that it is, at long last,time for him to blow his trumpet. This is significant with regard to what he has said previously in the play, most notably that St. Peter told him to "wake him up when it's time to open the gates for judgement." When he attempts to do this, however, no sound is produced. This leads him to an unspoken "frightful realization." This might most obviously be that he is not the angel Gabriel as he had previously thought. However, a more significant and terrible realization would be one that connects more profoundly with the racial component of the piece, the idea that that the black American's adoption of Christianity has failed him.

This is reinforced by the fact that Gabriel then breaks into an "atavistic" dance, one that seems almost instinctive. Gabriel has, in this moment, broken his ties with the Christianity that defines him and reconnected with his ancestral spirituality. The idea that is reinforced here is that Christianity will scarcely serve Black persons, as it was just another aspect of life that was forced upon them by white imperialism and slavery. To truly come into contact with the divinity within themselves and to find their "gates of heaven" open, Black Americans needed to forge their own identity and become aware of their own heritage.

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