Study Guide

Fences Quotes

  • Race

    Troy: "The nigger has a watermelon this big....Talking about...'What watermelon, Mr. Rand?'...Trying to hide that great big old watermelon under his coat. Afraid to let the white man see him carry it home." (1.1.5-1.1.7)

    Here Wilson draws on an old stereotype of black people: that they love watermelon. This stereotype may have come from minstrel shows, a form of entertainment popular in early America. Very often in these shows black people were depicted as lazy, ignorant people who liked nothing better than to sing, dance, and eat watermelon all day. It could be that the coworker Troy is talking about was ashamed of confirming this stereotype by actually having a watermelon in his possession. Perhaps he lies about having the watermelon because he doesn't want to seem like a "typical" black person to his white boss, Mr. Rand. By using this stereotypical image, Wilson forces us to confront America's past and present struggle with racism.

    Bono: "Well, as long as you got your complaint filed, they can't fire you. That's what one of them white fellows tell me." (1.1.12)

    Notice how Bono sees a white person as an authority figure. Because a white person told him something was true, it is. Bono's comment represents the power that white people held in society during this time. Is this still true of modern American society? How have things changed?

    Troy: "I went to Mr. Rand and asked him, 'Why? Why you got white mens driving and the colored lifting?'" (1.1.13)

    Troy is ticked off about the racial inequality going on at his job as a garbage collector. The white men all get to drive the trucks, while the black men have to lift the cans and dump them in the back. This sort of segregation was typical of the time. Black men were often forced to do the manual labor.

    Troy: "'You think only white fellows got sense enough to drive a truck. That ain't no paper job!'" (1.1.13)

    Here, Troy is continuing to recount his fight with his boss, Mr. Rand. Troy is fighting for the higher position for himself and all other black workers in the sanitation department. It's interesting that, though Troy feels that blacks are good enough to be drivers, he assumes that they wouldn't be able to handle "paper" or office jobs. You could see this as an example of how racism is so entrenched that black people are a little racist against themselves. Perhaps Troy has bought into the stereotypes that society has forced upon him.

    On the other hand, it may just be a practical observation. Many blacks weren't well educated during the time of the play. Troy himself can't read or write and wouldn't be able to do an office job. This, of course, is due to the poverty and racial inequality of America at the time, and is no way related to lack of potential. Either way you look at this comment by Troy, it's evidence of America's legacy of racial inequality.

    Bono: "I thought only white folks had inside toilets and things." (1.1.56)

    Bono tells us that he and his wife Lucille lived for six years in a crappy two-room apartment with only an outhouse in the back. He says he's not even sure why they stayed there so long. This quote seems to imply that he just assumed he couldn't do any better. Perhaps society had put him in a position where he felt he was doing as well as a black man could do.

    Troy: "I'm talking about if you could play ball then they ought to have let you play. Don't care what color you were." (1.1.81)

    Troy points out the blatant racism that kept him from a career in the major leagues. He was just as good, if not better, than many of the white players, and yet he didn't get a shot because of his color. Wilson seems to use the example of discrimination in the world baseball to represent the discrimination going on in America as a whole.

    Troy: "A Negro go in there and can't get no kind of service. I seen a white fellow come in there and order a bowl of stew. Pope picked all the meat out the pot for him." (1.2.19)

    You hear tales of racial inequality at restaurants all the time. Many of the early sit-ins were in protest of segregated lunch counters. What's interesting here is that Troy is accusing an African American, Pope, of discriminating against members of his own ethnicity.

    Troy: "Got that boy...that Puerto Rican boy...Clemente. Don't even half-play him. . . ."
    Cory: "He gets lots of chances to play." (1.3.58-1.3.59)

    Troy tries to argue that baseball is still racially segregated. However, his arguments seem more and more flimsy in this interchange with Cory. It seems like times have changed a lot more than Troy is ready to admit.

    Troy: "The white man ain't gonna let you get nowhere with that football noway." (1.3.78)

    Troy refuses to see that things have changed since his hopes for a pro-sports career were destroyed. Though racial discrimination is still a huge problem in America during the '50s, things have gotten more equal, especially in the world of sports. Troy, however, is too stubborn and bitter to admit there's been some progress.

    Bono: "[Troy's] gonna be the first colored driver. Ain't got to do nothing but sit up there and read the paper like them white fellows." (1.4.50)

    It looks like Troy won his battle for equality. He may not have broken the race barrier in the world of professional baseball, but at least he has this small victory. This is often how racial barriers are broken down – one tiny step at a time.

  • Men and Masculinity

    Rose: "What you all out here getting into?"
    Troy: "What you worried about what we getting into for? This is men talk, woman." (1.1.41-1.1.42)

    Troy seems to have some pretty traditional ideas of the roles of men and women. He tells Rose to go inside so that he and Bono can finish their manly conversation. Rose, of course, doesn't pay him any mind and never takes crap from him. We wonder if Troy really means it when he says things like this. Sometimes it seems like he's just teasing his wife. He knows sexist statements like the one above are going to rile her up.

    Troy: "This is men talk. I got some talk for you later. You know what kind of talk I mean. You go on and powder it up." (1.1.42)

    Here's another choice sexist comment from Troy. He basically implies that men are the only people worth talking to and that women are just good for sex. We get the impression later on in the play that Troy actually respects his wife much more than comments like this might imply.

    Troy: "If my brother didn't have that metal plate in is head...I wouldn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of." (1.2.18)

    Troy paid for his family's house with the money from Gabriel's disability checks. It seems like this is a real sore point for Troy. We wonder if he feels like less of a man because he wasn't able to provide a home for his family on his own.

    Troy: "Yeah, what?"
    Cory: "Yessir." (1.3.25-1.3.26)

    Troy is constantly asserting his authority over Cory. It seems like he never wants his son to forget that he's the one in charge. Perhaps Troy feels so powerless in the other areas of his life that he's desperate to maintain his alpha-male status at home.

    Cory: "The Pirates won today. That makes five in a row."
    Troy: "I ain't thinking about the Pirates." (1.3.58)

    Cory constantly tries to connect with his father, but Troy almost always finds a way to reject him. Here we see Cory try to start a conversation about baseball, but his father instantly shoots him down. This troubled father-son relationship forms the spine of the play.

    Troy: "That boy walking around here smelling his piss...thinking he's grown. Thinking he's gonna do what he want, irrespective of what I say." (1.4.101)

    Everybody's seen a male dog mark its territory by peeing on a fire hydrant or some unlucky bush. That's the image that Wilson draws on here to describe the growing father-son tension in the play. It seems like this very typical battle for male dominance may very soon explode.

    Troy: "[H]e was chasing me off so he could have the gal for himself....When I see what the matter was, I lost all fear of my daddy. Right there is where I become a fourteen years of age....I picked up them reins and commenced to whupping on him." (1.4.113)

    Here Troy tells the story of the day he left home. His father caught him making out with a neighbor girl instead of doing his work. He then tried to chase Troy off so he could have the thirteen-year-old girl for himself.

    It seems pretty noble to us that Troy stood up to his father on this day. He must've known his dad was going to beat the crap out of him for it, yet still Troy saved the girl from his father's lecherous clutches. Notice, however, that to Troy, becoming a man was defined by violence. Specifically, it was defined by violence between father and son. This idea has tragic effects later on in the play.

    Troy [speaking to Cory]: "You a man. Now let's see you act like one. Turn you behind around and walk out this yard. And when you get there in the can forget about this house." (2.4.75)

    Troy thinks that Cory is old enough to take care of himself now. He kicks his son out into the world to fend for himself. To Troy, this is how a boy becomes a man – by making his own way in the world.

    Troy: "You're gonna have to kill me! You wanna draw that bat on me. You're gonna have to kill me." (2.4.102)

    In their final climactic battle, Cory picks up Troy's bat and threatens him with it. Troy stands up to his father but ultimately loses the fight. He then leaves home to make his own way in the world. Notice that this is the very same thing that happened to Troy. Also, notice that the weapon used here is a baseball bat. To us, this seems like a pretty obvious phallic (penis-like) symbol. It seems pretty appropriate in this manly battle for domination.

    Cory: "I'm not going to Papa's funeral.... I've got to say no to him. One time in my life I've to say no.". . .
    Rose: "Not going to your daddy's funeral ain't gonna make you a man." (2.5.75-2.5.80)

    Cory hopes to finally become his own man by not going to his father's funeral. He thinks this will somehow symbolically distinguish him from the man that still overshadows his life. Rose sees this as outright disrespect. She lectures her son, saying that it won't help make Cory into his own man. What do you think? Does Cory owe it to his father to attend the funeral? Does he owe it to himself? Which choice might best help Cory to become his own man?

  • Mortality

    Troy: "Death ain't nothing but a fastball on the outside corner." (1.1.82)

    Troy says that "a fastball on the outside corner" was a pitch he could easily knock out of the park back in his heyday. So when he makes the statement above, he's saying that he's not afraid of death. He brags that he conquered death once when he had pneumonia, and he can easily do it again.

    Troy: "Ain't nothing wrong with talking about death. That's part of life. Everybody gonna die. You gonna die, I'm gonna die. Bono's gonna die. Hell, we all gonna die." (1.1.88)

    Here Troy shows a pretty practical view of death. Even though earlier on he was bragging that he beat Death up, he's not so deluded that he thinks he's immortal. Troy realizes that he and everybody else's time on Earth is limited.

    Troy: "Death stood up, throwed on his robe...had him a white robe with a hood on it." (1.1.96)

    Typically the figure of Death is depicted as wearing a black robe, but here it's white. Is this just a random fashion choice? Were black robes just not in for supernatural beings the year Troy wrestled with Death?

    We're guessing there's a larger significance, since black-white racial issues are such a big deal in the play. It could be seen as a deliberate rejection of the idea that the color black should symbolize death. Some might see it as offensive that the same color often used to represent death (as well as evil) is also used to describe African Americans.

    Death's white robes and hood might also be seen as representing the Ku Klux Klan, the white supremacist group responsible for so many hate crimes in the American South. The typical uniform for KKK members was (and still is) white robes and hoods. Perhaps by equating Death with the Klan, the play is referencing the many African Americans who lost their lives (literally and metaphorically) to white oppression.

    Gabriel: "Did you know when I was in heaven...every morning me and St. Peter would sit down by the gate and eat some big fat biscuits?" (1.2.48)

    It's interesting that both Troy and his brother, Gabriel, have had near-death experiences. While Troy was suffering from pneumonia, he hallucinated that he was wrestling with Death. When Gabriel was recovering from a battlefield head wound, he imagined he was hanging out with a friendly St. Peter. What do you think these individual fantasies say about each of the brothers? What might the differences between the hallucinations say about each brother's character?

    Gabriel: "[St. Peter] Ain't got my name in the book. Don't have to have my name. I done died and went to heaven." (1.2.52)

    Gabriel seems totally unafraid of death. In his mind, he's already been there and it wasn't so bad. How do you think his attitude toward death affects the way he lives his life?

    Troy: "How you know how long I'm gonna be here, nigger? Hell, I might just live forever." (2.1.15)

    Here Troy seems to have a pretty optimistic view of death. At other times he's little more realistic about it, but in this scene he seems to be in bragging mode. This tends to happen a lot whenever his buddy Bono is around.

    Troy: "All right...Mr. Death....I'm gonna take and build me a fence around this yard. See? I'm gonna build me a fence around what belongs to me. And then I want you to stay on the other side. See? You stay over there until you're ready for me." (2.2.55)

    When Alberta dies in childbirth, Troy feels Death has snuck up on him. He's determined to be ready next time and not to let it happen again. Of course, none of us ever really knows when death will come. Do you think Troy truly realizes this, or does he actually believe he can keep death at bay?

    Troy: "Then you [Death] come on. Bring your army. Bring your sickle. Bring your wrestling clothes." (2.2.55)

    Notice how Wilson brings back the image here of Troy wrestling with Death. We wonder if the play might be subtly referencing the Biblical story of Jacob, who actually wrestled with God. There are lots of Biblical references throughout Fences, so it would make sense that Wilson means for us think of Jacob here. In many ways Troy is like a figure from the Bible. He often seems to be wrestling with forces that are much larger than he is – Death being one of the strongest and most undefeatable.

    Rose: "[Troy] swung that bat and then he just fell over. Seem like he swung it and stood there with this grin on his face...and then he just fell over." (2.5.74)

    It looks like Troy finally lost his battle with Death. True to his word, he went out fighting, though. He died swinging his weapon of choice – a baseball bat. We wonder what the smile on his face was about. Did he perhaps find some bit of peace in his final moment on earth?

    Cory and Raynell: "Blue laid down and died like a man / Now he's treeing possums in the Promised Land / I'm gonna tell you this to let you know / Blue's gone where the good dogs go."

    Cory and his half-sister, Raynell, sing this song together in honor of their father. Though the words are about a hound dog named Blue, it seems clear that they both hope that Troy has gone "where the good dogs go." This is a great moment of healing for Cory, who never got to make peace with his father before the man died.

  • Dreams, Hopes, Plans

    Rose: "Cory done went and got recruited by a college football team." (1.1.68)

    This is the first time in the play that we learn of Cory's big dream: to be a football player. More than that, Cory sees this as a chance to go to college. He hopes to break out of the cycle of poverty that many black people were trapped in at the time.

    Troy: "He ought to go and get recruited in how to fix cars or something where he can make a living." (1.1.69)

    Troy says Cory's big dream is impractical. He thinks his son should learn a trade instead of focusing on sports. That way Cory will have a real skill that he can use to make it through the world.

    Rose: "They gonna send a recruiter by to talk to you. He'll tell you he ain't talking about making no living playing football." (1.1.70)

    Rose doesn't necessarily disagree with the idea that football is an impractical way to make a living, but she tries to get her husband to see that the football scholarship is Cory's big chance to go to college. Unfortunately, Troy won't listen to her.

    Rose: "They got lots of colored boys playing ball now. Baseball and football."
    Bono: "You right about that, Rose. Times have changed, Troy. You just come along too early." (1.1.76-1.1.77)

    Bono and Rose are trying to talk some sense into the stubborn Troy. They want him to understand that just because racism crushed his dreams of being a professional ball player, it doesn't mean the same thing will happen to Cory. Once again, though, Troy refuses to see their point of view. It seems like he's too jaded by the failure of his dreams to see the new reality around him.

    Troy: "I done seen a hundred niggers play baseball better than Jackie Robinson. Hell, I know some teams Jackie Robinson couldn't even make! What you talking about Jackie Robinson. Jackie Robinson wasn't nobody." (1.1.82)

    When Jackie Robinson was signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers, he broke racial barriers by becoming the first black baseball player to play in the major leagues since baseball was first segregated in 1889. While many African Americans drew inspiration from Robinson, Troy talks trash about him. It makes sense that Troy would be jealous: Robinson got the chance that Troy wanted more than anything.

    Lyons: "I just stay with my music because that's the only way I can find to live in the world." (1.1.153)

    Here we learn Lyons's dream: to be a musician. Well, he already is a musician, but he hasn't managed to make a living at it yet. It looks like he mostly survives off his girlfriend's money and the ten dollars a week that Troy reluctantly gives him. With Lyons, just as with most characters in the play, we see a person whose dreams never quite come true.

    Gabriel: "Got me two quarters....I'm gonna save them and buy me a new horn so St. Peter can hear me when it's time to open the gates." (1.2.56)

    It seems like Gabriel's dreams are simultaneously the smallest and biggest in play. You could say that he doesn't want much out of life. He's just trying to sell enough fruit to buy a new trumpet – no big deal, right? Of course, he claims to need this trumpet to help open the gates of heaven itself. Pretty lofty goal.

    Bono: "[Troy's] gonna be the first colored driver. Ain't got to do nothing but sit up there and read the paper like them white fellows." (1.4.50)

    We wonder if Troy was so determined to be a driver because of the discrimination he experienced in the pro-sports world. Is this quest in some way a substitute for the dream that was squashed earlier in his life? Was he dead-set on breaking down this racial barrier because of the one that held him back before?

    Cory: "Papa done went up to the school and told Coach Zellman I can't play football no more. ...Told him to tell the recruiter not to come....Just cause you didn't have a chance! You just scared I'm gonna be better than you, that's all." (1.4.158-1.4.166)

    Troy claims he's concerned that Cory will be discriminated against the same way he was. But Cory thinks Troy is only trying to hold him back out of jealousy. Is Cory right or wrong about Troy's motivations?

    Rose: "I took all my feelings, my wants and needs, my dreams...and I buried them inside you. I planted a seed and waited and prayed over it." (1.2.122)

    Rose admits that she placed all her hopes and dreams on Troy. Whatever personal goals she had she put aside to be Troy's wife. She's heartbroken when she learns that Troy has betrayed her trust by fathering a child with another woman. In a way, all her dreams have been shattered.

  • Family

    Rose: "I told him if he wasn't the marrying kind, then move out the way so the marrying kind could find me." (1.1.50)

    It seems that in many ways Rose tamed Troy's wild and unruly ways. When she insisted that she be Troy's wife and not just his girlfriend, she made him see the value of family. This makes Troy's betrayal later on in the play all the more painful.

    Lyons: "If you wanted to change me, you should've been there when I was growing up." (1.1.155)

    Lyons points out that Troy was never around when he was a kid. We learn later on in the play that Lyons is Troy's son from a previous marriage. Troy wasn't around for Lyons because he was in prison for killing a man while attempting to rob him. You could see Lyons as representing Troy's first failure at creating a solid family and being a good father.

    Troy: "I love this woman [Rose]. I love this woman so much it hurts. I love her so much...I done run out of ways of loving her." (1.1.173)

    No matter what happens later in the play, it seems clear that the Maxson family has a foundation of love. It looks to us that, despite his later betrayal, Troy sincerely loves his wife, Rose.

    Troy: "You all line up at the door with your hands out. I give you the lint from my pockets. I give you my sweat and my blood. I ain't got no tears. I done spent them." (1.3.127)

    It seems like Troy very often sees his family as a burden. It's almost as if he sees himself as some kind of martyr, sacrificing his own life for the sake of his family. What do you think – is Troy just a whiner or is there a certain nobility to his daily struggles?

    Lyons: "You ought to come down and listen to me play, Pop."
    Troy: "I don't like that Chinese music. All that noise." (1.4.84-1.4.85)

    The fact that Troy calls the jazz Lyons plays "Chinese music" shows the large generation gap between them. Troy seems to be even more distant from Lyons's life than Cory's. Still, though, there seems to be a lot less tension between Lyons and Troy. Why do you think this might be?

    Bono: "My daddy came on through...Just moving on through. Searching out the New Land. That's what the old folks used to call it. See a fellow moving around from place to place...woman to woman...called it searching out the New Land." (1.4.104)

    Bono never had a father figure, and he never had children of his own. He was afraid he would feel the urge to go "searching out the New Land" just like his father did. Perhaps Bono feels like it isn't right to bring a child into the world if you're just going to abandon it. Unlike Troy, he has broken the cycle his father started, but at what expense?

    Troy: "How he [Troy's daddy] gonna leave with eleven kids?...No, he was trapped and I think he knew it." (1.4.109)

    Here Troy figures that his father saw his family as a trap. It seems Troy very often feels the same way. His sense of duty to his family keeps him locked in a job he hates. In many ways, Troy has repeated the path of his father.

    Bono: "Some people build fences to keep people out...and other people build fences to keep people in. Rose wants to hold on to you all. She loves you." (2.1.32)

    Bono seems to think that Rose is having Troy and Cory build the fence because she senses that her family is falling apart. She knows tensions between Troy and Cory are about to explode. She might also sense that Troy is having an affair.

    Rose: "And you know I ain't never wanted no half nothing in my family." (2.1.102)

    Rose is especially upset at the news of Troy's illegitimate child because of the family she comes from. More than anything, she wanted a traditional home, with one father and one mother. Now, though, Troy's shenanigans have destroyed that for her after eighteen years of stable family life.

    Troy: "When I found you and Cory and a halfway decent job...I was safe....I wasn't going back to the penitentiary. I wasn't gonna lay in the streets with a bottle of wine. I was safe. I had a family." (2.1.116)

    Here we see that Troy truly values his family. He sees it as the thing that saved him from a sad life of jail, homelessness, and alcoholism. You could say that the real tragedy in the play isn't Troy's eventual death, but the disintegration of his family.

  • Betrayal

    Bono: "I see where you be eyeing her." (1.1.20)

    This is the first we learn of Troy's relationship with Alberta. What begins as a flirtation at a bar leads to a betrayal that destroys Troy's marriage. By betraying his wife, Troy loses the family he cherishes.

    Bono: "It's all right to buy her one drink. That's what you call being polite. But when you wanna be buying two or three...that's what you call eyeing her." (1.1.24)

    This line raises an interesting question: at what point does cheating start? If Troy is into Alberta, why would one drink be different than two or three? Aren't the feelings behind the drinks the real betrayal? We bet Maury would know the answer, but since he's not around we'll have to wonder for ourselves.

    Troy: "Look here, as long you known ever known me to chase after women?"
    Bono: "Hell yeah! Long as I done known you. You forgetting I knew you when.
    Troy: "Naw, I'm talking about since I been married to Rose"
    Bono: "Oh, not since you been married to Rose." (1.1.25-1.1.24)

    It looks like Troy used to be a real ladies' man. However, Bono recognizes that he's been a good boy since he got married. So what's the deal now, Troy? What's with this whole Alberta thing?

    Bono: "I see you be walking up around Alberta's house. You supposed to be at Taylors' and you be walking up around there." (1.1.30)

    Uh oh, not only is Troy buying drinks for sexy Alberta, he's also walking around her house. It seems Bono is hinting that Troy's relationship with Alberta has already gone past a few friendly drinks at the bar.

    Rose: "Where you going off to? You been running out of here every Saturday for weeks. . . ."
    Troy: "I'm gonna walk down to Taylors'. Listen to the ball game." (1.2.70)

    We think there's a high probability that Troy is lying to Rose here. There's a good chance Troy has actually been going off to Alberta's place "every Saturday for weeks." Do you think Rose suspects that her husband is cheating on her?

    Rose: "What was the score on the game? Lucille had me on the phone and I couldn't keep up with it."
    Troy: "What I care about the game? . . ."
    Rose: "I thought you went down Taylors' to listen to the game." (1.3.12-1.3.14)

    Uh huh, even more suspicious. If Troy was down at the bar watching the game, why doesn't he know the score? Yep, it seems to us like he's hiding something.

    Bono: "When you picked Rose, I was happy for you. That was the first time I knew you had any sense. I said...My man Troy knows what he's doing...I'm gonna follow this nigger...he might take me somewhere." (2.1.38)

    It's almost like Bono feels personally betrayed by Troy's affair with Alberta. Here he admits that he first came to truly respect Troy when Troy chose Rose over all the other ladies back in the day. Perhaps this is why Bono and Troy's friendship gets totally messed up by the end of the play, when the full truth of the affair comes out.

    Troy: "I don't know how to say this....I can't explain it none. It just sort of grows on you till it gets out of hand. It starts out like a little bush...and the next thing you know it's a whole forest." (2.1.27)

    Oh, snap, here it comes: Troy is about to tell Rose about his affair with Alberta. What do you think – is this pretty line about flowers and forests going to soften the blow?

    Troy: "I'm trying to find a way to tell you...I'm gonna be a daddy. I'm gonna be somebody's daddy." (2.1.79)

    What!? He wasn't kidding that his affair got out of hand. Not only did he cheat on his wife, he went fathered a child with somebody else. Wilson really keeps the surprises coming with this revelation. We pretty much knew there was an affair going on, but we had no idea about this.

    Rose: "I said send [Gabe] to the said let him be you done went down there and signed him to the hospital for half his money. You went back on yourself, Troy. You gonna have to answer for that." (2.2.31)

    Rose feels like Troy has betrayed his brother Gabriel by putting him into a mental institution. She originally thought it was a good idea, but Troy argued that his brother should be free. Even though she might ultimately think that Gabe is safer in the hospital, Troy has once again disappointed her by going back on his word. Troy denies that he knew what he was signing when he put Gabe away, but Rose doesn't buy it. What do you think? Does Troy betray his brother for the money?

  • Duty

    Troy: "I don't know why [Lyons] don't go and get him a decent job and take care of that woman he got." (1.1.168)

    Troy sees it as a man's duty to take care of his woman. The fact that Lyons lives off Bonnie's income is disgraceful to Troy. In Troy's mind, Lyons is failing in his duty as a man. However, we wonder if Troy feels that he failed in his duty as a father by not being around to provide for Lyons when he was a child.

    Rose: "Can't nobody say you ain't done what was right by him [Gabriel]." (1.2.67)

    Here Rose tries to get her husband to see that he's fulfilled his duty to his brother. It seems Troy is concerned that people will think he took advantage of Gabriel by using his disability checks to buy a house and then kicking him out. This doesn't seem to be the case, however. Troy is definitely flawed in many ways, but he does seem to feel a sense of duty to his family.

    Rose: "He [Troy] say you were supposed to help him with this fence."
    Cory: "He been saying that the last four or five Saturdays, and then he don't never do nothing, but go down to Taylors'." (1.3.4-1.3.5)

    There's a good chance that all those times Troy said he was going down to Taylors' he was really going to Alberta's house. It seems to us that in some ways he's been shirking his duty to his family. The half-finished fence in the yard could be seen as a symbol of Troy's failure to uphold his familial duties.

    Rose: "I got some meat loaf in there. Go on and make you a sandwich." ( 1.3.10)

    It seems Rose feels her main duty around the house is to always be cooking. Every time she enters the stage she tries to get somebody to eat something. This was a role that many women fulfilled in 1950s America.

    Troy: "While you thinking about a TV, I got to be thinking about the roof...and whatever else go wrong around here." (1.3.42)

    Troy sees one of his chief duties as maintaining a home for his family. In this scene, he tries to get Cory to understand the practical demands of keeping the house in a livable condition. Though Troy fails his family in many ways, he does work hard to make sure they have a home and enough money to get by on.

    Troy: "You live in my house...sleep you behind on my bedclothes...fill you belly up with my food...cause you my son. You my flesh and blood. Not cause I like you! Cause it's my duty to take care of you." (1.3.114)

    As a father and husband, Troy feels obligated to provide the necessities of life, but he seems to think his duties end there. It sounds like he doesn't feel obligated at all to show his son that he loves him.

    Troy: "But I'll say this for him [Troy's father]...he felt a responsibility toward us." (1.4.109)

    This is the one good thing Troy has to say about his father. Despite his meanness, he did feel a sense of duty toward his family. It seems Troy inherited this sense of obligation.

    Rose: "And upstairs in that room...with the darkness falling in on me...I gave everything I had to try and erase the doubt that you wasn't the finest man in the world...Cause you was my husband." (2.1.122)

    Rose talks here about the duty she felt to Troy as his wife. She's done nothing but struggle for years to be the best wife she knows how to be. Now her husband has disappointed her terribly by fathering a child with another woman. In her mind, though Troy has fulfilled a certain part of his duties by providing for his family, he's failed in some other, perhaps even more important, areas.

    Troy: "Rose...I'm standing here with my daughter in my arms. She ain't but a wee bittie little old thing....She's my daughter, Rose. My own flesh and blood. I can't deny her no more than I can deny them boys." (2.3.3 -2.3.7)

    Troy feels a strong fatherly sense of duty to his newborn daughter Raynell. At this point in the play, he may have to go out into the streets and be homeless with her for all he knows. Still, he's determined to provide for her as best he can. In her typical saintly way, Rose says she will take on the responsibility of raising Raynell. However, she tells Troy that she's not his woman anymore. That's one duty she refuses to fulfill in the future.

  • Dissatisfaction

    Troy: "All I want them to do is change the job description. Give everybody a chance to drive the truck." (1.1.15)

    Troy Maxson is dissatisfied on almost every level of his life. Early on in the play we learn that he is unhappy with his job. Of course, the blatant racial inequality at work gives him a pretty good reason to be.

    Bono: "I see where you be eyeing her." (1.1.20)

    Here we get the first hint that Troy has become dissatisfied in his marriage. His best friend Bono seems to sense it, too. He's noticed that Troy has been paying a lot of attention to a lady named Alberta.

    Troy: "I'm talking about if you could play ball then they ought to have let you play. Don't care what color you were." (1.1.81)

    The fact that Troy wasn't allowed to play professional baseball because of his color is one of the major sources of frustration in his life. We wonder what sort of man he would have turned out to be if he'd been allowed to play. If Troy could've found more satisfaction in his professional life, would he have been happier in his family life?

    Troy: "If my brother didn't have that metal plate in is head...I wouldn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of." (1.2.18)

    Here's another major source of dissatisfaction for Troy: he had to use his brother's disability checks to buy his house. Perhaps he resents his home in some ways because he wasn't able to earn the money for it himself.

    Troy: It's just...[Alberta] gives me a different idea...a different understanding about myself. I can step out of this house and get away from the pressures and problems." (2.1.110)

    Troy's affair with Alberta is a way for him to escape the life he's led for eighteen years. It seems like he's become dissatisfied with the role of family man. He was unable to resist the temporary relief his affair gave him. Now that the truth is out and he has another baby on the way, though, it seems like Troy has only given himself more to worry about.

    Troy: "It ain't about nobody being a better woman or nothing. Rose, you ain't the blame. A man couldn't ask for no woman to be a better wife than you've been." (2.1.114)

    Here Troy claims that he's in no way dissatisfied with his wife. He talks like this throughout the play, constantly declaring to the world how much he loves Rose. It seems like this is pretty hard for Rose to understand, considering that her husband has just admitted to an affair.

    Troy: "I done locked myself into a pattern trying to take care of you all that I forgot about myself." (2.1.114)

    Troy takes the blame for his dissatisfaction and his affair upon himself. He claims it's his fault that he became so unhappy with his life because he didn't take the time to make himself happy. Does his character gain any sympathy by taking responsibility for his actions? Or is a cheater a cheater no matter what his excuses are?

    Troy: "Then when I saw that gal [Alberta]...she firmed up my backbone. And I got to thinking that if I tried...I just might be able to steal second." (2.1.118)

    How dissatisfied was Troy with his life before Alberta? He claims to have been happy with his family. Do you think it was meeting Alberta that made him feel dissatisfied, or did her presence only stir up what was already there?

    Lyons: "You got to take the crookeds with the straights. That's what Papa used to say. He used to say that when he struck out. I seen him strike out three times in a row...and the next time up he hit the ball over the grandstand....He wasn't satisfied hitting in the seats...he want to hit it over everything!" (2.5.57)

    Lyons seems to be saying that Troy's philosophy was that you have to accept both the good and the bad things that life throws at you, but you should never be satisfied with being just mediocre. You should always try as hard as you can to be the best you can be. (Wow, this is sounding like a Nike commercial or something.) What evidence do you see in the play that Troy lived his life by this philosophy? Did he always measure up to his own ideals?

    Cory: "Papa was like a shadow that followed you everywhere. It weighed on you and sunk into your flesh. It would wrap around you and lay there until you couldn't tell which one was you anymore....I'm just saying I've got to find a way to get rid of that shadow, Mama." (2.5.81)

    Cory has trouble shaking off the ghost of his father, even though he's been making his own way in the world for about seven years now. It seems that the way Troy brought Cory up put a real sense of dissatisfaction into his son. Now, in order to become his own man, Cory has to find a way to live life that gives him personal satisfaction. He has to somehow separate himself from the expectations of his father.