Study Guide

Fences Dreams, Hopes, Plans

By August Wilson

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 n*****s 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.