Study Guide

Rose Maxson in Fences

Rose Maxson

Rose is Troy's ever-dutiful wife. As far as homemakers go, she'd put Martha Stewart to shame, and her cooking skills would make Rachel Ray blush. Rose is in some ways what you might expect of a 1950s-era housewife. She's always at home, cleaning or cooking. And, most important for a housewife of the time, she stands by her man. Even though Troy can be a jerk, Rose sticks by him for most of the play.

Don't get us wrong, Rose is no doormat. She doesn't let Troy walk all over her; she always calls him on his crap. When he makes inappropriate sexual remarks in front of company, she tells him that's not cool. When he exaggerates stories, she sets him straight. When she learns about his affair, she tells him off, saying, "You always talking about what you give...and what you don't have to give. But you take too. You take...and don't even know nobody's giving!" (2.1.122).

Perhaps the most telling moment for Rose is when she agrees to help raise Raynell. When Troy's mistress Alberta dies in childbirth, Troy begs Rose to be a mother to the baby girl. Rose tells her husband:

I'll take care of your baby for you...cause...she innocent...and you can't visit the sins of the father upon the child. A motherless child had got a hard time....From right now this child got a mother. But you a womanless man. (2.3.8)

It seems to us that this line sums up the two sides of Rose's nature. A natural mother, she can't help but want to nurture and care for the baby. The fact that she is her husband's illegitimate daughter makes Rose seem all the more compassionate. However, when Rose agrees to do this, she cuts Troy off. For the rest of the play, we see that the two are totally estranged. OK, she still leaves food in the kitchen for him, and he still pays the bills. But it's clear that, emotionally, Rose has severed her ties to her husband. Troy has lost the loving wife he once had.