The ending of the play can be seen as an instance of situational irony. At Troy's funeral, where all have come to pay their respects, it would be expected that Gabriel would finally be able to sound his horn. Yet, rather than hearing Gabriel blow his horn in recognition of Troy, the mouthpiece is broken and we see his dance and howl at the reality of what is. This scene can be seen as situational irony because it represents a combination of expected and real results, the essence of situational irony. Another instance where there is a collision between what is expected and real results would be where Troy demands to build a fence to keep out death and, in a sense, keep out life. Yet, the addition of Raynell to the family comes about as a result of death, and, in the process, proves the futility of the desire to want to contain life and stop its progression, regardless of its painful predicament.
Situational irony refers to a situation in which actions have the opposite effect of what is intended or expected. One example of situational irony in Fences is that Troy builds a fence around his yard to prevent death from entering and taking him. He says, addressing death, "I'm gonna build me a fence around what belongs to me. And then I want you to stay on the other side." At the end of the play, however, death crosses over the fence and finds Troy, and the family attends his funeral. He builds the fence around his house to protect himself, but death crosses the fence and finds him anyway.
The other example of situational irony is that Troy wants to be a driver on a garbage truck, not just a worker who lifts the garbage. He wants to be the first African-American driver, and he gets his wish. However, rather than making him happy, his new job makes him miserable. He says, "Ain't got nobody to talk to. . . . Feel like you working by yourself." Troy thinks that the promotion to being a driver will make him happier, but, in reality, it makes him more isolated and depressed.