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Fences Act 1, Scene 1 Summary
In typical August Wilson fashion, the play begins with a whole bunch of stage directions. We're told that we're in the Maxson family's yard. Their ancient brick house is set off of an alley in a city neighborhood. There's a wooden porch that needs to be painted really badly. Some old beat-up chairs sit on the porch. There's a half-built fence around the dirt yard. Tools and lumber sit in a pile. A ball made of rags hangs from the tree. A baseball bat leans against the tree. It's 1957. Troy Maxson and Bono enter the yard in the middle of a conversation. Both men are black. We're told that Troy is a big guy. Bono has been Maxson's best friend for 33 years. It's Friday night – payday. It's the one night of the week where the two friends drink and hang out. Troy and Bono are dressed for their jobs as garbage collectors. At long last, the dialogue begins. Troy and Bono are discussing a recent complaint that Troy has made at work. Maxson evidently asked his boss, Mr. Rand, why all the black men put the garbage in the trucks, while the white men get to drive. Bono worries that the white management will drum up some reason to fire Troy. It doesn't seem like Troy is too afraid of this. He's just looking for equality and feels like he deserves it. Bono mentions that Troy has been talking to a certain lady, Alberta, at the bar a lot lately. He seems concerned that Troy might be having an affair. Bono also points out that he's seen Troy walking around Alberta's house. Troy denies that he's messing around with Alberta. He says he's stopped chasing after women ever since he's been married to his wife, Rose. Bono asks where Alberta is from. Tallahassee, says Troy. His friend comments that Alberta is "big and healthy." She's got "big old legs and hips as wide as the Mississippi River" (1.1.36). Troy says that legs don't matter. It's "them hips [that] cushion the ride!... Like you riding on Goodyears!" (1.1.37-1.1.39). Rose enters. Stage directions tell us that she's ten years younger than Troy. She's devoted to him, in part, because her life without him would be no good. Rose also recognizes that Troy has a good spirit despite his faults. Troy's wife asks what Troy and Bono are talking about. Troy tells her it's "men talk" (1.1.42). Rose asks Bono if he wants supper. He tells her he'll eat supper at home. He's looking forward to his wife's pot of pig feet. Troy says he wants to go eat pig feet with Bono. He teases Rose, asking if what she's cooking can top it. She's got chicken and collard greens cooking. Troy tells his wife to go back inside so the man-talk can continue. He makes sexually suggestive remarks to Rose, teasing her, saying she needs to go inside and "powder it up" so she'll be ready for him later on that night (1.1.47). Rose tells him not to talk like that. Troy affectionately puts his arm around his wife. He says that when he first met Rose, he told her he didn't want to marry her; he just wanted to be her man. He prods Rose to tell Bono what she responded. Rose says she told Troy, "if he wasn't the marrying kind, then move out the way so the marrying kind could find me" (1.1.50). Troy says he thought this over for two or three days. Rose corrects him, saying he came back the same night. Jokingly, Troy tells Bono that he promised to put a rooster in the backyard. This way he'd know if any other men were sneaking out the backdoor when he came home from work. Rose tells him not to talk like that. Troy says the only problem was when they first got married, they didn't have a backyard. Bono talks about the first house he and his wife lived in. There were only two rooms with an outhouse in the back. It was freezing cold when the winter wind blew. He wonders why they stayed there six years. Bono says he thought only white people could get better things. Rose says a lot of people don't realize they can do better. For example, people still shop at Bella's, when the A&P is way cheaper. Troy says he's treated right at Bella's and that's why he shops there. The only good thing about the A&P is that the grocery store gave his son, Cory, a job. Money has been tight around the house since Troy's brother, Gabe, moved out. Rose mentions that Cory has been recruited by a college football team. Troy is totally against this. He says that the white man won't let Cory go anywhere in the sports world. He thinks his son ought to be learning a trade instead of focusing on sports. Rose tells her husband that it's a real honor for their son to be recruited. Bono comments that if Cory is as good at football as Troy was at baseball then the boy will do alright. Troy says that despite his skills at baseball he's still poor. His wife tells him that times have changed since he played baseball – now black people are allowed to play in the major leagues. Bono says that Troy just "[came] along too early" (1.1.77). "There ought not never have been no time called too early!" says Troy. He talks about how his batting average was way higher than Selkirk's, a guy who played right field for the Yankees back then. Rose comments that people just had to wait for Jackie Robinson to come along. Her husband says, "Jackie Robinson wasn't nobody" and that he "know[s] teams Jackie Robinson couldn't even make!" (1.1.82). Troy complains that it should never have mattered what color you were. If you were good at baseball, they should've let you play. He takes a long swig from a bottle of gin. Rose warns him that he's going to drink himself to death. Her husband says he isn't afraid of Death. He compares it to "a fastball on the outside corner" (1.1.84). Back in the day, he could knock one of those right out of the park. Troy continues, saying he's not afraid of Death because he's wrestled with him. He saw Death's cold army marching straight at him. Rose says all this was a hallucination of Troy's when he had a really bad case of pneumonia. Troy tells them that he grabbed Death's sickle and threw it over a hill. He wrestled Death for three days and nights until Death finally gave up. Death told Troy that he would be back. Troy realizes that Death will get him someday, but he's not going out without a fight. Bono remarks that Troy has "got more stories than the Devil's got sinners" (1.1.101). Troy says he's seen the devil too. Troy's son, Lyons, enters. Stage directions tell us that Lyons is Troy's son from a previous marriage. Troy suggests that Lyons only came by to get some money. Lyons replies that he just came by to say hello, since he was in the neighborhood. Troy thinks his son was in the neighborhood because he knows Troy got paid today. Lyons says, "Well, hell, since you mentioned it... let me have ten dollars" (1.1.116). His father tells him he'd rather "go to hell and play blackjack with the devil" (1.1.117). Bono asks Troy to tell the story about when he met the devil. Troy says that happened a while ago, when he needed some furniture. He went to the furniture store and tried get some on credit, but they wouldn't help him out. The next think you know a white man showed up at the door out of nowhere. The man told Troy he'd give him three rooms worth of furniture as long as he paid ten dollars a month. If Troy didn't pay, then the man would come back and take the furniture. Troy says that this man must've been the devil. Bono asks how long Troy has been paying the ten dollars. Troy tells him it's been fifteen years. Rose butts in and calls Troy out for making the whole story up. She says Troy doesn't pay ten dollars a month to anybody and that they got their furniture from a dude named Mr. Glickman. Troy laughs it off, saying Bono knows he wouldn't ever be as a big a fool as to pay somebody that much for some furniture. His wife tells him he should stop talking about dealing with the devil. He ought to be worried about what God's going to say on judgment day. Lyons asks again for the ten dollars. Troy gives him a hard time about it, saying Lyons ought to get a job. Lyons says he's too busy playing music. Troy implies that Lyons' mother did a bad job raising him. Lyons tells his father that he should've been around when he was growing up -- then maybe he would've been raised better. Rose encourages Troy to give Lyons the ten dollars. Her husband tells her to give it to Lyons. She says she will, as soon as Troy gives her his earnings for the week. He hands his money to her and she gives Lyons the ten dollars. Lyons tells them both thank you and heads off. Troy complains that Lyons is 34 and doesn't have a real job. Bono says he has to go home – his wife is waiting. Troy puts his arm around Rose and says how much he loves her. He tells Bono that soon he and Rose will be getting it on, and drunkenly brags that they'll probably still be getting in on come Monday morning.
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