Fences
Fences
by August Wilson
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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.

Next Page: Act 1, Scene 2
Previous Page: Intro

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