Assess Troy and Rose's relationship.
It is possible to view Rose as a long-suffering wife who, as the previous educator mentioned, is a complementary and "countervailing force to Troy's own sense of destruction." It is also possible to view her as an extraordinarily generous and selfless woman. I suspect that Wilson wants us to see Rose in this way, which may be part of the reason for his choice of a name: a rose is beautiful and perennial, enduring over time. On the other hand, Troy, like the ancient kingdom that is his namesake, has been defeated and is nostalgic for his former greatness.
His belief in his own greatness, in addition to his entitlement as a man, leads him to behave selfishly toward his wife. In the heated exchange over his mistress Roberta's pregnancy, he expresses an entitlement to a comfort and ease with Roberta that he does not experience at home. Rose counters that she wanted such experiences, too, but channeled those longings back into her family.
Wilson's depiction of their relationship clearly casts judgment on Troy whose disregard for Rose makes him a difficult figure with whom to sympathize. On the other hand, her pain and humiliation are more accessible to the audience. Wilson's portrayal of Rose is emblematic of the condition of many black women in their time, women who not only could not get respect in a society dominated by white males, but could not get respect in their own homes. She suffers as much as Troy due to economic and social limitations, but, unlike him, finds solace in institutions in which she can participate fully: her family and her church.
She encourages Troy to work within the contingencies of his life and to deal with what is so, a behavior that is demonstrated in her reminders to him to complete the fence—a duty he continually puts off in order to self-indulge.
Rose in many ways is Troy's opposite. While he is prone to dwelling on death and being a pessimist, she is the eternal optimist who tells Troy to stop thinking about dying and to think in a more positive light about his two sons' chances in life. She also puts her foot down with Troy and does not allow him to push her around; for example, in the past, he wanted to continue to see her without marrying her, but she forbade that and said that they had to be married if he wanted to continue their relationship.
Rose is an extremely generous and loving woman who is committed to Troy, although he doesn't always treat her well. When they have been married 18 years, she finds out that Troy has another woman, Alberta. Though Rose is extremely angry, she stays with Troy because she is committed to him and to their family. When the mother of Troy's daughter Raynell dies, Rose agrees to help raise the child, as she believes the child is innocent and should not be punished for her mother's sins. Rose raises Raynell as if the child were her own, and, in the end, she forgives Troy because she has decided to make a life with him and accepts the choice she has made in marrying him. While Troy can be unforgiving, Rose is forgiving and generous with her love.
Wilson displays the relationship between Troy and Rose as a complex one. Rose is a dutiful wife. She withstands much of what Troy puts her through. His anger, his emotional distance, and his own bouts with struggling with elements that cannot be countered in this life are all endured with amazing grace. A great example of this would be in the building of the fence. Troy comes to see the fence as a way to ward off death, while she sees it as an element to keep her family safe from harm. Rose does not let the condition of challenge in marrying Troy impact her. Even when it is evident that she cannot overcome the pain of being cheated upon, she carries out her duties. In channeling her energy to her church activities and seeking out a better life than what is, Rose provides a countervailing force to Troy's own sense of destruction. In both of them, there is a painful condition of being trapped by the condition of what is and then the ability to construct what can be from what is. It is for this reason that they are a couple that complements one another. Even when it is evident that the love shared between them is gone, this complement still exists between them.
When we look at the relationship between Troy and Rose, it is important that we understand the time period in which the characters exist. The 1950's still marked a large divide between men and women, and when we factor in Rose's ethnicity, is is understandable that she is not one to stand up to those around her; she was raised to believe that to be quiet is to be safe.
Rose's dedication to her husband is not just seen through the fact that they are married, but also through her willingness to eventually take on his illegitimate daughter. She is a practical woman, not one to take on unnecessary burdens; but, she sees young Raynell as an innocent part of her husband, something she can mold into just his best qualities.
Troy's view of his wife is a bit more complex in many ways. Though he openly loves her, he also spends his time with another woman behind her back. However, this may simply be a reaction to his perceived inability to give his wife the life he feels she deserves; he considers himself a failure, and he has brought his lovely and bright wife down with him. Alberta, his lover, expects very little from him, so he feels a sense of freedom with her that he does not feel with his own wife.
Looking at this relationship from a modern perspective, in a time when divorce is common and women frequently work outside the home, it is easy to find yourself yelling "just leave him!" at Rose throughout the play. Despite her obvious loyalty and love, we are disposed think of her as a person onto herself who deserves to be treated with more respect. However, when we think of it from a 1950's perspective, our view may change. Divorce was very uncommon and it was nearly impossible for African-American women to work. Also, Troy may have been emotionally abusive and neglectful, but there is limited evidence of physical neglect of abuse.
All in all, Troy and Rose's relationship is a complicated one, but is very much a reasonable product of its time and should be viewed as such.