What literary devices are used in Fences?

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Gabriel's trumpet is another important symbol in the play. After Troy's death, his disabled brother Gabe blows into his instrument with all his might in order to open the gates of Heaven. Gabe's sure that it's time for St. Peter to open those pearly gates and let his brother walk right through them. Despite waiting for this moment for over twenty years, however, Gabe is unable to coax a single sound out of his trumpet. It's only after Gabe indulges in a strange ritual dance that Heaven finally opens its gates to Troy.

This scene has been interpreted in all kinds of different ways, some of them more plausible than others. Some critics have argued that Gabriel's trumpet is a symbol of the Christianity which was never originally a part of African culture but was largely imposed on indigenous people by white colonialists. That would account for why Gabe is unable to make a sound with his trumpet; it's a symbol of a religion that does not have deep roots among the African people. It is only when Gabe starts to dance, the kind of dance which harkens back to pre-Christian African civilization, that the gates of Heaven finally open for Troy.

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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.

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One of the literary devices in Fences is the symbolic use of fences. Troy wants to build a fence around his property, and the fence is both literal and figurative. The fence is intended to keep death at bay, and it also symbolizes the way in which Troy keeps people, including his sons, at an emotional distance from himself.

Another literary device is that death is personified in this play. Troy says that he has actually seen death when he had pneumonia, and death marched right up to him with his sickle. Troy claims that he threw death's sickle and wrestled with death for three days until they were both weak. Death then put on a white robe, like a Klansman, and marched off, promising to be back later. Therefore, death acquires the attributes of a person in this play. Troy also says, "Death ain’t nothing but a fastball on the outside corner." In this metaphor, death is likened to a kind of pitch that Troy, as a skilled baseball player, thinks he can defeat.

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August Wilson makes notable use of metaphor in Fences. The most notable metaphor comes from the play's title itself. The action of the play revolves around a fence that Troy and his son Corey are building around Troy's yard. The fence represents both the metaphorical fences that Troy builds around himself to keep people from getting too close to him and the metaphorical fences that he faced in society preventing him, as a black man, from finding success as a baseball player. The meaning of the fence metaphor is most clear when Bono explains, "Some people build fences to keep people out and other people build fences to keep people in."

Troy frequently calls upon baseball imagery in the play, which takes on symbolic meaning. For instance, he describes death as a "fastball on the outside corner," and when explaining his extramarital affair, he says he wanted to "steal a second." Paired with the more explicit baseball imagery, the fence Troy is building itself parallels the traditional fence around a baseball field.

The play ends with the final and very important symbol of Raynell's garden. In the last scene of the play, Troy's daughter Raynell and wife, Rose, regard a garden that Raynell planted the night before, after Troy's funeral. Rose tells Raynell to give it time and the garden will grow. This symbol represents renewal, growth, and positive change for the family in their next chapter after Troy's death.

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What are some literary devices in the play Fences?

As with any play, there are a number of literary devices throughout the course of the narrative, both major and minor. The most prominent of these in this play, however, is the extended metaphor that revolves around the title. Part of the narrative revolves around Troy building a literal fence. However, the title is in reference to the metaphorical fences that he builds between himself and the members of his family. He sees his son as a threat to his sense of self worth and consistently alienates him and sabotages his attempts to fulfill his dreams. Rather than let his wife in to help him cope with his feelings of inferiority, he cheats on her and pushes away any of her attempts to help.

Another literary device that is used throughout the play is personification. Frequently, death is personified. Troy himself seems to have an antagonistic and sometimes intimate relationship with death. In moments of drama, Troy makes a personal challenge to death to take him if it can. Troy feels the need to personify death due to his intense fear of his own mortality. He feels that the circumstances of his life are unfair, and he has a tendency to make even unbiased forces into personal enemies, including death.

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