Because Fences is a play, the most important literary device that August Wilson uses is dialogue. Dialogue is defined as conversation between characters. Its purposes include revealing information about the characters and advancing the plot. While Wilson uses it for both purposes, his attention to characterization is especially significant. Each of the main characters emerges as a distinct individual. The relations between them are well developed and believable.
One way that the characters are distinguished is through the monologues that they present. A monologue is an extended speech by one character. Wilson is so well-known for creating memorable monologues based on Fences and other plays he has written that the Los Angeles-based Center Theatre Group holds an annual August Wilson Monologue Competition. From Fences, participants may select one of ten monologues, spoken by Troy, Rose, Bono, or Gabriel. These include Troy’s speech about—and to—Death in act 1, scene 1, which includes the line: “what you want, Mr. Death? You be wanting me?” For Rose, a notable monologue is found in act 2, scene 2. Her monologue begins with: “I been standing with you! I been right here with you, Troy.”
Rose’s monologue includes the metaphor of planting a seed for growth and nurturing. A metaphor is a direct comparison of unlike things for effect. She says that she planted a seed consisting of her own dreams and hopes within Troy, only “to find out the soil was hard and rocky and it wasn’t never gonna bloom.”
An extended metaphor, or conceit, appears in Troy’s monologue in act 2, scene 1. He compares his life choices to those in baseball.
But…you born with two strikes on you before you come to the plate. You got to guard it closely...always looking for the curve-ball on the inside corner. You can’t afford to let none get past you. You can’t afford a call strike. If you going down...you going down swinging.
Wilson writes about ordinary, working-class African American people. With regards to setting, he focuses on people living in the Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The dialogue they speak is vernacular English, sometimes called dialect.