What is the symbolic role of fences in this play?

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sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Troy takes pride in keeping his family together and providing for them by collecting garbage. Troy's rebellion and frustration set the tone for the play as he struggles for fairness in a society which seems to offer none—and it is race that interferes with fairness, race which is the ultimate fence in society preventing people of color from attaining The American Dream. In his struggle to deal with the fence of race, he builds fences between himself and family. I don’t think in this play that “fences do good neighbors make,” for they seem to be an impediment that must be negotiated or torn down.

renelane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rose believes the fences are symbolic of the safety they provide inside their house. Alberto wants the fences to hold death at bay, and Troy thinks the fences keep intruders out. Yet, for all that the fences symbolically keep out, they also can be seen to keep people confined, such as the imaginary fence that Troy's father uses to control him, or the prison walls that keep him incarcerated.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Just with the Robert Frost poem "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors," this play illustrates how people "fence" themselves in to certain roles in life.  Sometimes these roles are within the family, sometimes within society as a whole.  Basically, the symbolic role represents the boxes we paint for ourselves and within which we choose to live.

almondjoy | Student

I believe the fence is meant to protect his family, and to keep out the devil.  For Rose, she wants it to protect her family.  Troy, it's a reminder that in was in prison, and to keep intruders out.  bye a_almondjoy

mcoog | Student

As Renelane suggests, Rose has a perspective that is different from Troy's sense of "fences."  At the opening of Act I, Scene II, Rose sings, "Jesus, be a fence around me every day / Jesus, I want you to protect me as I travel on my way."  Wilson himself commented, in the Savron interview about this play, that by the conclusion, most of the characters are closely associated with one institution or another--the military, a hospital, prison / workhouse, or (in Rose's case) the church--and the connections with these institutions do not bode well for the possibility of their exercising control over their own lives.  Despite her own incredible strength, Rose has retreated into a space she sees as protected by divine power; she relies on the comforts of her religious faith to keep those she loves safe from the forces that threaten her family.  At the center of the play is a problem of control for each character over his or her destiny, as well as a problem of control for all of them over the threats to their family unity.  Rose represents the desire for a unified, safe family group, but her Jesus-fence is not an effective way of exercising the needed control.  (Wilson did not, however, reject the role played by the chuch in African-American history.  The African-American church has had obvious liberating and empowering influences.)