Study Guide

Fences Dissatisfaction

By August Wilson


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.