In Fences, how are the names Rose, Lyons, and Gabriel symbolic or ironic?

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Fences contains several symbolic and/or ironic names. Rose's name symbolizes love and loyalty, and indeed, she is completely loving and loyal to her family. Lyons's name suggests the pride, majesty, and independence of a lion, but ironically, Lyons's character exhibits none of these traits. He is, rather, dependent, lazy, and, dishonest. Gabriel's angelic name is appropriate to his innocence, simplicity, and love.

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In August Wilson's play Fences, the names Rose, Lyons, and Gabriel are symbolic, or at least ironic. Rose, Troy's wife, is named for a flower that symbolizes love and loyalty. Indeed, Rose loves Troy dearly. She has stood by him all the years of their marriage, even when times were difficult and even when her own desires were not met. She held onto Troy. She even tells him at one point,

I owed you everything I had. Every part of me I could find to give you (act 2, scene 2).

Even after Troy confesses his infidelity and tells Rose that he is expecting a child by another woman, Rose does not leave him. Their relationship changes, certainly, but she remains loyal to her marriage vows. She even agrees to raise Troy's baby daughter, whose mother dies in childbirth.

Indeed, Rose loves Raynell as her own daughter. She is Raynell's true mother just as much as she is Cory's, and she remains loving, loyal, and supportive to her children no matter what their choices. She tries to help Troy see how important football is to Cory, and even though Troy refuses to let Cory play and alienates his son in the process, Rose still guides Cory as best she can. At the end of the play, on the day of Troy's funeral, Rose speaks words of wisdom to Cory, telling him to let go of his resentment toward his father and explaining that Troy tried to help Cory become a man even though he wasn't always right. Throughout the play, Rose remains a “rose,” a symbol of faithful love.

Lyons's name is more ironic than symbolic. Lions seem to be majestic animals, proud and graceful, strong and independent. Lyons is nothing of the sort. He wants to make a name for himself as a musician, but he can't seem to stay out of trouble. He is constantly coming to his father, Troy, to borrow money, which he wastes while his wife, Bonnie, works hard all day in the hospital laundry. Troy offers to get Lyons a job hauling rubbish, but Lyons claims,

That ain't for me. I don't want to be carrying nobody's rubbish (act 1, scene 1).

Instead, Lyons lazily depends on Bonnie and Troy—until, that is, he finds another way to get some money, illegally, and ends up in prison. Ironically, though, Lyons, while he does not fit the image of a lion, actually does engage in some quite lion-like behavior, for male lions rarely hunt and depend upon the females in their pack to get their food for them.

Gabriel's name is highly appropriate, for Gabriel, thanks to a severe head injury during World War II, thinks he is actually the archangel Gabriel. He chases hellhounds and prepares to blow his trumpet on judgment day as St. Peter gets ready open the gates of Heaven. Strangely, though, Gabriel's character fits his angelic name. He is innocent, simple, desirous of pleasing his family in every way possible, and constantly worried that he will anger his brother.

He truly cares about Troy, Rose, and their family, and he wants the very best for them, especially Heaven. He is even sure that he saw Troy's name in St. Peter's book and that Rose's name is there as well. Just before his brother's funeral, he can think of nothing else than making sure the gates of Heaven open to let Troy in, for he loves his brother just as he imagines an angel would do.

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