Study Guide

Fences Plot Analysis

By August Wilson

Plot Analysis

Initial Situation

The life of a garbage man

In the play's opening scenes, we get a peek into the world of Troy Maxson. He's a hardworking garbage man dedicated to providing for his family. However, we learn that Troy just may have some flaws – one of which is that he's cheating on his dedicated wife, Rose.


Father versus son

The play's main conflict becomes clear when Troy's son Cory arrives on the scene. Troy is determined to keep Cory from going to college on a football scholarship. He claims Cory will only be discriminated against, just like Troy was during his baseball days.


Troy crushes Cory's football dreams

A major complication arises when we learn that Troy has gone to Cory's coach and told him that Cory can't play football anymore. Now Cory's one chance at going to college is destroyed. Understandably, Cory is really angry with his dad and accuses him of holding him back out of jealousy.


Troy and Cory duke it out

Tensions swiftly build. The truth of Troy's affair comes out when his mistress, Alberta, becomes pregnant. After Alberta dies in childbirth, Troy's wife Rose agrees to raise the child but declares that she's no longer Troy's woman. All this instability at home leads to an all-out fight between Troy and Cory. Troy wins the battle and kicks Cory out of the house for good.


Cory considers not going the funeral

The play picks back up years later, on the day of Troy's funeral. Cory arrives back home but tells his mother that he won't be going to the funeral. Rose goes off on him, saying that being disrespectful to his father isn't going to make him a man.


Cory and Raynell sing a song

The play's tensions wind down as Cory and Raynell together sing a song that their father used to sing. Though the song is about a dog named Blue it seems clear that the two are singing it in honor of Troy. We're left with the impression that Cory is on the road to coming to terms with his father.


Gabriel opens the gates

In the final moments of the play, Troy's brother Gabriel shows up. He's determined to blow his trumpet so St. Peter will know to open the gates of heaven for Troy. When no sound comes out of the horn, Gabriel chants and performs a ritualistic dance. The play concludes with the gates of heaven opening wide for Troy.