Study Guide

Fences Duty

By August Wilson


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.