Fences Summary

Fences is a play by August Wilson in which frustrated protagonist Troy alienates his family through a series of tragic decisions.

  • Troy moved up north in his youth and struggled to build a new life for himself. After a series of trials, he became a baseball player in the Negro Leagues.

  • Troy is now in his fifties and unhappily works as a garbage collector. He alienates his family by cheating on his wife, kicking out his son Cory, and institutionalizing his mentally ill brother, Gabriel.

  • At Troy's funeral, Gabriel dances so that Troy can go to heaven, forgiving Troy for his mistakes.


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The play opens in 1957, on a Friday night. Troy and Bono are two black garbage collectors discussing the action Troy has recently taken at work against their boss, Mr. Rand. He has approached the union to ask why black men cannot drive garbage trucks.

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Troy is married to Rose, and Bono to Lucille, but Bono has an interest in another woman, Alberta. He accuses Troy of being interested in her, too, but Troy says he was only being polite.

Rose emerges from the house, and the group discusses various issues, from how Troy and Rose first met to the question of whether to shop at the cheaper A&P or the more expensive independent store. Troy feels their son, Cory, should stick to his safe job at the A&P, whereas Rose is pleased that he has been offered a college football scholarship and feels he should take it. Troy believes Cory will be passed over in favor of white boys. When Troy's son Lyons, from his first marriage, appears and asks to borrow money, Troy tells him he is lazy and should get a job, but Lyons is a musician and does not want to do a job like Troy's.

The following day, Troy is criticizing Rose for her lottery habit when Troy's brother, Gabriel, arrives. Troy is supposed to be building a fence but has not gotten very far with it. Gabriel was wounded in World War II and now has a metal plate in his head, carries a trumpet everywhere, and believes himself to be the Angel Gabriel. He has recently moved out of Troy's house and is afraid that Troy is angry at him because of this, although Troy says otherwise. Rose feels Gabriel would do well in a hospital, but Troy says it is imperative that Gabriel remain "free." He then leaves, saying he is going to Taylor’s to watch the game.

When he returns, Cory is present, and the pair begin work on the fence. Cory asks why the family does not own a television, and Troy says the cost of a television would be the cost of repairing the roof. Troy was once a baseball player but felt he was passed over because he was black. He is sure Cory will be treated the same way in football. Cory is upset and asks why his father has never liked him, to which Troy retorts that nobody ever said he had to like his son. He only has to provide care, which he has done. He tells his son that Cory must get his job back at the A&P and that he will not sign the college recruiter's form. He tells Cory this is his first "strike." Rose criticizes Troy, saying that there is no reason Cory should not succeed in football. The world is changing around Troy, and Troy refuses to see it.

Two weeks later, Cory escapes the house with his football gear first thing in the morning without doing his chores. Troy and Bono return to tell Rose that Troy's petition has been successful: he will now be a truck driver. Lyons arrives to return his borrowed ten dollars and asks about Cory; Troy explains that he will not sign the recruiter's form, as he has checked with the A&P and found that Cory is still not working there. He says that his own life was one of struggle, and others must expect to work, too. Lyons suggests that his father come and watch him play music, but Troy refuses. Then, Cory returns in a fury: Troy has gone to his football coach and told him that Cory can no longer play football at all.

The following morning, Troy is called to the jail to bail out...

(The entire section contains 1302 words.)

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