Study Guide

Fences

Fences Summary

The first act of the play is a swirling portrait of Troy Maxson's life. We meet all the main people surrounding Troy. There's his best friend, Bono, whom he met while in prison. Now the two work together as garbage collectors and sip gin every Friday night. Then there's Rose, Troy's loving and dutiful wife. Lyons, Troy's son from a previous relationship, stops by to borrow some money. We also meet Gabriel, Troy's brother, who suffers from a World War II head wound and now thinks he is the archangel Gabriel. Last, there's Cory, Troy's son by Rose.

Wilson plants all the major conflicts of the play in the first act. Troy is trying to break the racial barrier at work by becoming the first black garbage truck driver. This conflict is actually quickly resolved as Troy wins his battle. We also get strong hints in the first act that Troy is having an affair with a woman named Alberta.

Ultimately, however, it seems that the main conflict of the play will involve Troy's son Cory. Cory has the chance to go to college on a football scholarship, but Troy refuses to sign the permission paper. Troy says he doesn't want his son to suffer from the same racial discrimination that kept Troy from being a pro baseball player. This tension comes to a head when Troy tells Cory's high school football coach that Cory can't play football anymore, which destroys Cory's hopes of going to college.

Things start to go really bad for Troy in the play's second act. When Alberta becomes pregnant, he's forced to fess up to Rose about his affair. Making matters worse, Alberta dies in childbirth. Rose agrees to raise the baby girl, Raynell, but says she no longer considers herself Troy's woman.

Not only does Troy lose his mistress and his wife, he also loses his best friend, Bono. We learn that the two men no longer hang out. This is partly because ever since Troy got the promotion to driver, the two don't work together anymore. More than that, though, it seems like Bono is really disappointed in Troy for having the affair. We also learn that Troy has had Gabriel put away in a mental hospital. Rose accuses him of doing this just to get half of Gabriel's disability check.

The play comes to a climax when tensions explode between Troy and Cory and the two go at each other with a baseball bat. Though Troy wins the fight, he loses his son forever.

The last scene of the play takes place years later on the day of Troy's funeral. We see Cory return home in a military uniform. He's gone out and made his own way in the world but is still struggling with the shadow of his father. He considers not going to the funeral, but is talked out of it by Rose. We're given hope that Cory is on the path to becoming his own man and forgiving his father when he and young Raynell sing a song together in honor of Troy.

The play concludes when Gabriel returns. He tries to blow his trumpet to open the gates of heaven for Troy. When no sound comes out, he does a ritualistic dance and chant. In the play's final moment, we're told the gates of heaven are wide open.

  • Act 1, Scene 1

    • In typical August Wilson fashion, the play begins with a whole bunch of stage directions.
    • We're told that we're in the Maxson family's yard.
    • Their ancient brick house is set off of an alley in a city neighborhood.
    • There's a wooden porch that needs to be painted really badly.
    • Some old beat-up chairs sit on the porch.
    • There's a half-built fence around the dirt yard.
    • Tools and lumber sit in a pile.
    • A ball made of rags hangs from the tree.
    • A baseball bat leans against the tree.
    • It's 1957.
    • Troy Maxson and Bono enter the yard in the middle of a conversation.
    • Both men are black.
    • We're told that Troy is a big guy.
    • Bono has been Maxson's best friend for 33 years.
    • It's Friday night – payday.
    • It's the one night of the week where the two friends drink and hang out.
    • Troy and Bono are dressed for their jobs as garbage collectors.
    • At long last, the dialogue begins.
    • Troy and Bono are discussing a recent complaint that Troy has made at work.
    • Maxson evidently asked his boss, Mr. Rand, why all the black men put the garbage in the trucks, while the white men get to drive.
    • Bono worries that the white management will drum up some reason to fire Troy.
    • It doesn't seem like Troy is too afraid of this.
    • He's just looking for equality and feels like he deserves it.
    • Bono mentions that Troy has been talking to a certain lady, Alberta, at the bar a lot lately.
    • He seems concerned that Troy might be having an affair.
    • Bono also points out that he's seen Troy walking around Alberta's house.
    • Troy denies that he's messing around with Alberta.
    • He says he's stopped chasing after women ever since he's been married to his wife, Rose.
    • Bono asks where Alberta is from.
    • Tallahassee, says Troy.
    • His friend comments that Alberta is "big and healthy." She's got "big old legs and hips as wide as the Mississippi River" (1.1.36).
    • Troy says that legs don't matter. It's "them hips [that] cushion the ride!... Like you riding on Goodyears!" (1.1.37-1.1.39).
    • Rose enters.
    • Stage directions tell us that she's ten years younger than Troy.
    • She's devoted to him, in part, because her life without him would be no good.
    • Rose also recognizes that Troy has a good spirit despite his faults.
    • Troy's wife asks what Troy and Bono are talking about.
    • Troy tells her it's "men talk" (1.1.42).
    • Rose asks Bono if he wants supper.
    • He tells her he'll eat supper at home. He's looking forward to his wife's pot of pig feet.
    • Troy says he wants to go eat pig feet with Bono.
    • He teases Rose, asking if what she's cooking can top it.
    • She's got chicken and collard greens cooking.
    • Troy tells his wife to go back inside so the man-talk can continue.
    • He makes sexually suggestive remarks to Rose, teasing her, saying she needs to go inside and "powder it up" so she'll be ready for him later on that night (1.1.47).
    • Rose tells him not to talk like that.
    • Troy affectionately puts his arm around his wife.
    • He says that when he first met Rose, he told her he didn't want to marry her; he just wanted to be her man.
    • He prods Rose to tell Bono what she responded.
    • Rose says she told Troy, "if he wasn't the marrying kind, then move out the way so the marrying kind could find me" (1.1.50).
    • Troy says he thought this over for two or three days.
    • Rose corrects him, saying he came back the same night.
    • Jokingly, Troy tells Bono that he promised to put a rooster in the backyard. This way he'd know if any other men were sneaking out the backdoor when he came home from work.
    • Rose tells him not to talk like that.
    • Troy says the only problem was when they first got married, they didn't have a backyard.
    • Bono talks about the first house he and his wife lived in.
    • There were only two rooms with an outhouse in the back.
    • It was freezing cold when the winter wind blew.
    • He wonders why they stayed there six years.
    • Bono says he thought only white people could get better things.
    • Rose says a lot of people don't realize they can do better.
    • For example, people still shop at Bella's, when the A&P is way cheaper.
    • Troy says he's treated right at Bella's and that's why he shops there.
    • The only good thing about the A&P is that the grocery store gave his son, Cory, a job.
    • Money has been tight around the house since Troy's brother, Gabe, moved out.
    • Rose mentions that Cory has been recruited by a college football team.
    • Troy is totally against this.
    • He says that the white man won't let Cory go anywhere in the sports world.
    • He thinks his son ought to be learning a trade instead of focusing on sports.
    • Rose tells her husband that it's a real honor for their son to be recruited.
    • Bono comments that if Cory is as good at football as Troy was at baseball then the boy will do alright.
    • Troy says that despite his skills at baseball he's still poor.
    • His wife tells him that times have changed since he played baseball – now black people are allowed to play in the major leagues.
    • Bono says that Troy just "[came] along too early" (1.1.77).
    • "There ought not never have been no time called too early!" says Troy.
    • He talks about how his batting average was way higher than Selkirk's, a guy who played right field for the Yankees back then.
    • Rose comments that people just had to wait for Jackie Robinson to come along.
    • Her husband says, "Jackie Robinson wasn't nobody" and that he "know[s] teams Jackie Robinson couldn't even make!" (1.1.82).
    • Troy complains that it should never have mattered what color you were.
    • If you were good at baseball, they should've let you play.
    • He takes a long swig from a bottle of gin.
    • Rose warns him that he's going to drink himself to death.
    • Her husband says he isn't afraid of Death. He compares it to "a fastball on the outside corner" (1.1.84).
    • Back in the day, he could knock one of those right out of the park.
    • Troy continues, saying he's not afraid of Death because he's wrestled with him.
    • He saw Death's cold army marching straight at him.
    • Rose says all this was a hallucination of Troy's when he had a really bad case of pneumonia.
    • Troy tells them that he grabbed Death's sickle and threw it over a hill.
    • He wrestled Death for three days and nights until Death finally gave up.
    • Death told Troy that he would be back.
    • Troy realizes that Death will get him someday, but he's not going out without a fight.
    • Bono remarks that Troy has "got more stories than the Devil's got sinners" (1.1.101).
    • Troy says he's seen the devil too.
    • Troy's son, Lyons, enters.
    • Stage directions tell us that Lyons is Troy's son from a previous marriage.
    • Troy suggests that Lyons only came by to get some money.
    • Lyons replies that he just came by to say hello, since he was in the neighborhood.
    • Troy thinks his son was in the neighborhood because he knows Troy got paid today.
    • Lyons says, "Well, hell, since you mentioned it... let me have ten dollars" (1.1.116).
    • His father tells him he'd rather "go to hell and play blackjack with the devil" (1.1.117).
    • Bono asks Troy to tell the story about when he met the devil.
    • Troy says that happened a while ago, when he needed some furniture.
    • He went to the furniture store and tried get some on credit, but they wouldn't help him out.
    • The next think you know a white man showed up at the door out of nowhere.
    • The man told Troy he'd give him three rooms worth of furniture as long as he paid ten dollars a month.
    • If Troy didn't pay, then the man would come back and take the furniture.
    • Troy says that this man must've been the devil.
    • Bono asks how long Troy has been paying the ten dollars.
    • Troy tells him it's been fifteen years.
    • Rose butts in and calls Troy out for making the whole story up.
    • She says Troy doesn't pay ten dollars a month to anybody and that they got their furniture from a dude named Mr. Glickman.
    • Troy laughs it off, saying Bono knows he wouldn't ever be as a big a fool as to pay somebody that much for some furniture.
    • His wife tells him he should stop talking about dealing with the devil. He ought to be worried about what God's going to say on judgment day.
    • Lyons asks again for the ten dollars.
    • Troy gives him a hard time about it, saying Lyons ought to get a job.
    • Lyons says he's too busy playing music.
    • Troy implies that Lyons' mother did a bad job raising him.
    • Lyons tells his father that he should've been around when he was growing up -- then maybe he would've been raised better.
    • Rose encourages Troy to give Lyons the ten dollars.
    • Her husband tells her to give it to Lyons.
    • She says she will, as soon as Troy gives her his earnings for the week.
    • He hands his money to her and she gives Lyons the ten dollars.
    • Lyons tells them both thank you and heads off.
    • Troy complains that Lyons is 34 and doesn't have a real job.
    • Bono says he has to go home – his wife is waiting.
    • Troy puts his arm around Rose and says how much he loves her.
    • He tells Bono that soon he and Rose will be getting it on, and drunkenly brags that they'll probably still be getting in on come Monday morning.
  • Act 1, Scene 2

    • Lights rise on Rose hanging laundry and singing to herself, "Jesus, be a fence all around me every day" (1.2.2).
    • Troy enters from the house.
    • Rose asks if he's ready for breakfast.
    • He tells her he's already put the coffee on, and that's all he wants.
    • Rose tells him that Miss Pearl won a little money in the lottery the other day. She complains that the people who really need it never win.
    • Troy tells her she shouldn't mess around with the numbers – it's a waste of time.
    • Rose points out that a guy named Pope bought a restaurant out of the money he won.
    • Her husband talks about how Pope always gives the best food to white people.
    • Rose implies that he's just bringing that up because he's worried about what happened at work on Friday (when Troy complained about the racial inequality).
    • Troy ignores her and asks where their son Cory is.
    • Rose says the boy went out.
    • Troy complains that Cory is just trying to avoid helping him with the fence they're supposed to be building.
    • Gabriel comes down the alleyway. He hears Troy's voice and stops.
    • Rose tells Troy that Cory went in for some extra football practice.
    • Troy gets mad because Cory hasn't done his chores.
    • Rose tells her husband to stop complaining about everything.
    • Troy sees Gabriel in the alleyway. Stage directions tell us that Gabriel is Troy's brother.
    • He's got a metal plate in his head from injury he got in WWII. He now thinks he is the archangel Gabriel.
    • Gabriel has an old trumpet strung around his neck and is carrying a basket full of fruits and vegetables.
    • He starts to sing that he's got plums for sale.
    • Rose asks him what's in the basket.
    • It turns out Gabriel doesn't actually have any plums; he just likes to sing about them.
    • He says that tomorrow he'll have enough plums "for St. Peter and everybody" (1.2.38).
    • He thinks Troy is mad at him because he moved out of the house to live in Ms. Pearl's basement.
    • Troy says he's not mad at all.
    • Gabriel brags that he's got two rooms and his own door. He proudly shows off his key.
    • Rose asks if he wants some breakfast.
    • He tells her he just wants some biscuits.
    • He says that when he was in heaven, he and St. Peter ate biscuits every day.
    • Sometimes St. Peter would go off and sleep, telling Gabriel to wake him up if Judgment Day came.
    • Rose leaves, saying she'll make Gabriel some biscuits.
    • Gabriel tells his brother that he saw his name in St. Peter's book.
    • Troy tells him to go inside and eat.
    • Gabriel says he already ate with Aunt Jemima.
    • He tells Troy that he sold some tomatoes and now he has two quarters.
    • Soon he'll buy a new horn so that St. Peter can find him on Judgment Day.
    • Gabriel stops suddenly, thinking he hears some hell hounds.
    • He runs off after them, singing about Judgment Day.
    • Rose reenters. She says that Gabriel ought to be in a hospital, where they can take care of him properly.
    • Troy says Gabriel shouldn't be locked up.
    • He complains that his brother got half his head shot off in the war and only got three thousand dollars afterward.
    • Troy used that money to buy his house and seems to feel guilty about it.
    • Rose says he shouldn't feel bad; he took care of Gabe in the house as long Gabe wanted to be taken care of.
    • Troy starts to head out of the yard.
    • His wife asks him why he's been going off every Saturday, especially since he's supposed to be working on the fence.
    • Troy says he's going to a place called Taylors' and that he'll finish the fence later.
  • Act 1, Scene 3

    • It's a few hours later.
    • Rose is taking clothes down from the line.
    • Cory enters carrying his football equipment.
    • Rose fusses at him about leaving that morning without doing his chores; he was supposed to help Troy with the fence.
    • Cory replies that Troy isn't ever around to work on the fence; he's been down at Taylors' for the past four or five Saturdays.
    • He asks her if she told his father about the recruiter.
    • Roses replies that she did, but that Troy didn't say much about it.
    • She tells him he'd better do some chores before Troy gets home.
    • Cory seems more interested in lunch.
    • He exits into the house.
    • Rose continues to take down laundry.
    • Troy enters and sneaks up behind her.
    • He comes on to her.
    • She tells him to go on and asks him what the score was on the game.
    • He says he doesn't care about the game and keeps coming on to her.
    • Rose shrugs him off.
    • Troy asks if Cory is home yet.
    • Rose says that he's in the house doing his chores.
    • Troy calls to Cory as Rose reenters the house with laundry.
    • Troy fusses at his son for leaving without doing his chores that morning. He tells him to get to work sawing some boards for the fence.
    • Cory starts sawing.
    • After a moment, he suggests that Troy buy a TV. They're only two hundred dollars, he says.
    • Troy goes off on his son, lecturing that if he had two hundred dollars he'd spend it on fixing the roof, not buying a TV.
    • Cory remarks that the Pirates won today.
    • His father doesn't want to hear about the Pirates. He says they've got an all-white team and that they never play Clemente, who is half Puerto Rican.
    • Cory says Clemente plays all the time.
    • Troy tells his son that they don't play him enough.
    • He says that's why he doesn't want Cory getting involved in sports – white people won't ever let him get ahead.
    • Cory points out that the Braves have Hank Aaron, and he's hitting a lot of homeruns.
    • Troy says he isn't impressed with Hank Aaron.
    • Cory talks about a lot of other black players.
    • Troy tells him to stop talking about it and to saw some boards.
    • He asks Cory about the college recruiter.
    • Excited, Cory tells him that the recruiter will be coming by to soon to get Troy to sign the permission paper.
    • Troy says Cory is supposed to be working at the A&P.
    • Cory replies that Mr. Stawicki is going to hold his job until after football season. Starting next week, Cory will work at the A&P on the weekends.
    • Troy tells him he's not signing anything. He wants Troy to get his regular job back. He thinks Cory should focus on learning a trade, not sports.
    • Troy lectures his son, saying that the white man won't let him get ahead in sports anyway.
    • He demands that Cory quit the football team and take his job back.
    • Cory asks Troy why he doesn't like him.
    • Troy goes off again, saying that it's a father's job to provide for his son, not to like him.
    • He orders Cory to go down to the A&P.
    • Cory exits.
    • Rose enters and tells her husband that he ought to let Cory play football.
    • She points out that Cory is just trying to be like Troy by playing sports.
    • Troy says he doesn't want Cory to be anything like him.
    • Rose tells Troy that he ought to admit that he was too old to play in the major leagues.
    • Her husband won't hear it; he says it was just because he was the wrong color.
    • Rose points out that what Cory wants more than anything is Troy's approval.
    • Troy says he doesn't have time to hold Cory's hand.
    • Rose tells him that the world has changed, and he can't see it.
    • Troy replies that he works hard every week to provide for his family and that's the best he's got to give.
  • Act 1, Scene 4

    • Stage directions tell us that it's two weeks later on a Friday.
    • Cory starts out of the house, carrying his football equipment.
    • The phone rings and Cory answers.
    • It's a guy named Jesse who wants to borrow Cory's spikes (football shoes).
    • Cory tells his friend that his old spikes aren't any good.
    • Rose yells to Cory, telling him to clean up his room.
    • Cory yells back that he has to go to the game.
    • He says he'll clean his room when he gets back, then runs off.
    • Rose worries about what Troy will say if he sees Cory's messy room.
    • Troy and Bono enter.
    • Stage directions tell us that Troy is wearing something other than his work uniform.
    • Apparently he was called down to the Commissioner's office because of his complaint.
    • Bono observes that Troy ran down to Taylors' to tell Alberta about it.
    • Troy says he just went down there to cash his check.
    • His friend seems unconvinced.
    • Troy yells for his wife. She tells him not to holler at her like that.
    • Troy says a woman is supposed to come when she's called.
    • Rose replies that she doesn't have to come like a dog.
    • Her husband says he used to have a dog named Blue, who never came when called.
    • He starts to sing a little ditty about Blue.
    • Rose tells him that nobody wants to hear him sing.
    • She recalls that Cory used to sing the song when he was little.
    • Troy says his daddy used to sing the song.
    • Rose tells him she still doesn't want to hear it.
    • She says things must have gone well at the Commissioner's office, or else Troy wouldn't be in such a good mood.
    • Troy proudly announces that they've made him a driver.
    • Rose seems happy for him.
    • Lyons enters.
    • Troy acts like he isn't happy to see his son.
    • He says that he thought Lyons would be in jail, since a place where Lyons plays music got raided by the police.
    • Lyons says he was just playing music, not gambling.
    • Rose tells Lyons he should have brought his lady friend Bonnie over.
    • He says he was just in the neighborhood.
    • Troy predicts that Lyons is about to ask him for money.
    • Rose tells Lyons about Troy's promotion. Troy is going to be the first black driver.
    • Bono points out that Troy doesn't have a driver's license.
    • Troy doesn't seem to be bothered by this; by the time his boss, Mr. Rand, finds that out, he'll have one.
    • Lyons tries to pay Troy back the ten dollars he borrowed.
    • Troy stubbornly refuses to take the money, saying that Lyons should keep it for the next time he wants to borrow money.
    • Lyons gives the money to Rose.
    • Gabriel enters, singing about Judgment Day.
    • He gives a rose to Rose.
    • Proudly, he tells them that he's spent the day chasing hell hounds.
    • He's trying to make sure that everything is ready for the Battle of Armageddon.
    • Rose offers everybody some food.
    • Gabe says he wants a sandwich.
    • Lyons says he doesn't want to eat before he goes to play music tonight.
    • He invites Troy to come listen.
    • Troy says he doesn't like the kind of music Lyons plays.
    • Gabriel tells Lyons that Troy is mad at him.
    • Lyons asks what that's all about.
    • Rose replies that Gabe thinks Troy is mad because Gabe moved to Ms. Pearl's.
    • Troy says he's not mad at all, but implies that it sucks that Gabe is no longer around to help with rent.
    • Rose says she doesn't want to hear about it anymore.
    • Gabe asks if he can have the sandwich now.
    • As Rose exits, she tells her husband he should sign the paper to let Cory play football.
    • Troy is determined not to sign.
    • He says Cory has been lying to him; he hasn't kept his job at the A&P at all – not even on the weekends.
    • Troy says that once a boy is old enough to disobey his father, it's time to move on.
    • Bono says he never got a chance to disobey his father because he never knew the man.
    • Troy wishes he had never known his father, because he was selfish and mean.
    • He says all his father lived for was the cotton crop.
    • Even though his father was hard on him, Troy recognizes that the man felt a duty to his family. He thinks his father probably felt trapped by this sense of duty.
    • Even so, says Troy, his daddy was straight-up evil. The man was so bad that Troy's mother left when he was a little boy and never came back.
    • Troy talks about the day he left home. He was 14 and had started to take an interest in Joe Canewell's daughter.
    • His daddy had told him to go plow a field with a mule named Greyboy.
    • Instead, Troy tied up the mule and went to make out with Joe Canewell's daughter by a stream.
    • Greyboy got loose and wandered back to the house, so Troy's father came looking for him.
    • He found Troy and the girl by the stream.
    • Troy's father started whipping him with the leather straps from the mule.
    • At first Troy thought his daddy was just mad at him for not doing his work.
    • He was about to run off when he realized that his father just wanted the girl for himself.
    • Troy lost all fear of his daddy when he figured that out.
    • He picked up the same strap his father had just beat him with and started whipping on him.
    • The girl ran away.
    • Troy's daddy beat him senseless after that.
    • When Troy woke up, his eyes were swollen shut.
    • The dog named Blue was licking his face.
    • Troy says this was the moment he realized he had to leave his father's house.
    • Gabriel enters, eating a ham sandwich.
    • Troy says he walked all the way from the creek bed to Mobile, two hundred miles away.
    • Rose calls from the house saying that Bonnie called for Lyons, wanting him to pick her up.
    • Troy talks about how he walked from Mobile to the city they now live in, looking for work. (Note: The play is set in Pittsburgh, though none of the characters ever says so specifically.)
    • When Troy got to Pittsburgh, he couldn't find a job.
    • He lived on the riverbank in a shack made of tar paper and sticks.
    • There were a lot of other black people living there as well.
    • Troy started stealing to survive. At first he just stole food, but then he started stealing money as well.
    • During that time he met Lyons's mother.
    • Before too long, Lyons came into the world.
    • Troy recognizes that it was a bad idea to have a kid when he could barely feed himself.
    • One day he tried to rob a man. The man shot Troy in the chest and Troy killed him with a knife.
    • Troy ended up spending fifteen years in prison.
    • This is where he met Bono and learned to play baseball.
    • Troy says prison totally cured him wanting to rob people.
    • He met Rose after he got out.
    • Troy says he told Rose that the only two things he cared about were her and baseball.
    • He says he told her that baseball was the important thing, but that if she stuck around eventually it would be her.
    • Rose calls him out, saying that he told her she was the most important thing.
    • Lyons says he has to go.
    • He asks Troy to come watch him play that evening.
    • Troy makes a bunch of excuses.
    • Lyons exits.
    • Troy asks Rose what's for dinner.
    • He makes some sexually suggestive remarks.
    • Rose tells him not to talk like that.
    • Bono exits, saying he's got to get home to his wife.
    • Cory enters. He seems really pissed off.
    • The boy throws his football helmet in Troy's direction.
    • It seems that Troy told Cory's coach that Cory couldn't play football anymore.
    • Troy also told the coach to tell the college recruiter not to come.
    • Rose tells Troy that he ought to let Cory play football.
    • Troy accuses Cory of lying to him – he hasn't kept up with his chores, and he hasn't kept his job at the A&P.
    • Cory tells Troy that he never listens; he says that his boss, Mr. Stawicki, is holding his job for him until after the season.
    • Cory accuses his father of purposely holding him back out of jealousy.
    • Troy tells his son that now he's got one strike.
    • He warns the boy not to strike out.
  • Act 2, Scene 1

    • Lights rise on Cory hitting the rag ball hanging from the tree with a baseball bat.
    • Rose comes out and tells Cory to help her clean the cupboard.
    • Cory says he's not quitting the team, no matter what his father says.
    • Rose says she'll talk to him about it when he gets back.
    • Evidently Gabriel got arrested for disturbing the peace, and Troy is trying to get him out of jail.
    • For now, she tells her son, come help clean the cupboard.
    • Cory goes inside.
    • Rose sees Troy and Bono coming down the alleyway. She asks Troy what happened with Gabe.
    • Troy tells her he paid them fifty dollars to let him out of jail.
    • He asks where Cory is.
    • Rose replies that he's inside helping her clean the cupboard.
    • Troy tells her to get Cory to come outside.
    • Rose goes back into the house.
    • Bono and Troy walk over to the woodpile.
    • Bono complains that Troy bought hardwood for the fence instead of something soft like pine.
    • Pine is for inside, says Troy.
    • His buddy tells him that a fence made of pine would've stayed around for as long as Troy was alive.
    • Troy says he may never die.
    • Bono brings up the fact that Troy has been talking and laughing with Alberta a lot lately.
    • Troy says he does that with all the ladies.
    • His friend implies that he's doing more than just talking with Alberta.
    • Cory enters from the house.
    • Start sawing some boards, his father tells him.
    • Both Bono and Troy are impressed with Cory's sawing skills.
    • Cory wonders why Rose might want a fence.
    • Troy doesn't get it either; they don't have anything valuable enough to steal.
    • Bono suggests that maybe Rose is trying to keep them in; she wants the fence because she's afraid of losing Cory and Troy.
    • Go inside and look for another saw, Troy tells Cory.
    • Troy asks Bono what he meant by that statement.
    • Bono tells Troy that he's respected him for a long time. He says that when Troy chose Rose over all the other girls, he knew Troy had some sense.
    • Bono tells his friend that he's learned a lot from him over the years. He reminds Troy that Rose is a good woman.
    • Troy says he knows that already.
    • Bono emphasizes how much Rose loves Troy.
    • Troy asks if his friend is saying all this because of Alberta.
    • Bono says he just doesn't want to see Troy mess up his marriage.
    • Troy is grateful for his friend's advice and tells him so.
    • He says he knows he won't find a better woman than Rose, but that Alberta has gotten "stuck" to him (2.1.47).
    • Bono advises his friend that he has to take responsibility for his own actions.
    • Troy says he'll do what feels right in his heart.
    • If you try to have both of them, Bono tells him, you're bound to end up losing one.
    • Troy tells his friend he's trying to find a way to work it out.
    • Bono says he doesn't mean to be all up in Troy and Rose's business.
    • Troy says he's going to get in Bono and Lucille's business. He reminds Bono that Lucille has been wanting a refrigerator for awhile.
    • I'll get Lucille a refrigerator when you finish this fence for Rose, Bono tells his friend.
    • Troy begins sawing a board.
    • Bono starts to exit. Troy asks where he's going.
    • I'm not helping you now, says Bono. The longer it takes for Troy to finish the fence, the longer it will be until Bono has to buy that fridge.
    • Rose enters from the house. She asks Troy what happened with Gabe.
    • Troy tells her again about how he paid a bribe to get his brother out.
    • He adds that there will be a hearing soon that will decide whether Gabe needs to be committed to a home.
    • Troy says he told the judge that he'd take care of Gabriel. Right now, Gabe is wandering around on his own.
    • Rose suggests that maybe Gabe ought to be in a hospital, where he'd be taken care of.
    • Troy says it's not right for his brother to be committed – Gabe isn't a threat to anybody. On top of that, Gabe only has mental problems because he got hurt fighting for his country. Troy thinks society owes Gabe some slack.
    • Rose recognizes Troy's point of view. She tells him to stop worrying about his brother and come inside to eat.
    • Troy says he has to tell her something first.
    • He breaks the news that he's gotten Alberta pregnant.
    • Rose can't believe what she's hearing.
    • Gabriel enters, carrying a rose for Rose.
    • She tells him to go in the house and eat some watermelon. He does.
    • Rose goes off on Troy.
    • She can't believe this is happening after eighteen years of marriage.
    • Troy says he can't undo what's been done.
    • His wife says he should have stayed in her bed.
    • Troy explains that he can relax at Alberta's house in a way that he can't at home.
    • He says he can't give her up.
    • Rose tells him he ought to go stay with her then, if she's so much better.
    • She's not better than you, Troy says. It's just that all the pressure of being the breadwinner for the household won't allow him to truly relax and be himself at home.
    • Troy talks about how grateful he was to have Rose and Cory in his life; they helped him be a better man.
    • Rose says he should've stayed in her bed then.
    • She tells him that she thought of being with other people at times, too. But instead of being unfaithful she stayed beside him.
    • Rose says Troy is always talking about how much he gives to the family but he doesn't realize how much he's taken.
    • She starts to exit.
    • Troy roughly grabs her arm, offended that she said he doesn't give enough.
    • Rose begs him to let her go.
    • Cory enters.
    • He grabs Troy from behind, hauling him off of Rose, then punches Troy in the chest.
    • Troy goes after Cory but stops when Rose begs him to.
    • "That's strike two," Troy menacingly says to his son (2.1.139).
  • Act 2, Scene 2

    • Stage directions tell us that it's six months later.
    • Troy enters from the house and starts to walk off.
    • Rose comes out on the porch, saying she wants to talk to him.
    • He says she hasn't wanted to talk to him for months, so why now.
    • She tells him she wants him to come home after work tonight.
    • Troy replies that he comes home every night.
    • Yeah, but not straight after work, says Rose, implying that he goes by Alberta's first.
    • Her husband tells her that he's going by the hospital after work.
    • Apparently Alberta might be having the baby early, so he's going to check on her.
    • Rose informs him that they put Gabe in the mental hospital today.
    • She accuses him of signing the papers to have Gabe put away.
    • He denies it.
    • Rose says Ms. Pearl showed her the paper with his signature on it.
    • Now Troy will get part of the check that the government sends for his brother.
    • Troy says he didn't know what he was signing because he can't read.
    • Rose accuses Troy of selling his brother out for the money.
    • He flatly denies it.
    • The phone rings and Rose goes to answer it.
    • She comes back out and tells Troy that it was the hospital calling.
    • Alberta has had the child but died in the process.
    • The baby is healthy.
    • Rose wonders who is going to bury Alberta.
    • Troy says Alberta had family.
    • Rose begs Troy not to push her away.
    • He says he's not trying to do that; he just needs some breathing room.
    • Rose goes back into the house.
    • Troy starts talking out loud to Death. He says he's going to build a fence around the yard to keep Death out.
    • Troy tells Death that when he comes for him he'd better be ready for a fight.
  • Act 2, Scene 3

    • Stage directions tells us that it's three days later.
    • Rose is sitting on the porch, listening to a ballgame.
    • Troy enters carrying his new baby, Raynell, wrapped in blankets.
    • There's a long, awkward silence.
    • Troy tells his wife that he's holding his daughter.
    • He says the girl is innocent and doesn't have a mother.
    • Rose brushes Troy off and goes back inside.
    • Troy sits down on the porch with Raynell.
    • He bemoans that fact that neither of them have a home now.
    • Troy sings Raynell a lullaby.
    • Rose comes back out on the porch.
    • Troy asks her if she'll help take care of Raynell.
    • Rose agrees, because Raynell is innocent and doesn't deserve to suffer.
    • However, from now on, Rose won't be Troy's woman.
  • Act 2, Scene 4

    • Lyons enters from the street, knocks on the door, and calls for Rose.
    • Rose calls from inside the house, telling Lyons to stop yelling – she's just gotten Raynell to sleep.
    • Lyons says he's come by to pay Troy back the twenty dollars he owes him.
    • Rose tells him to come inside and put the money on the table.
    • He does so. As he's exiting, Cory enters.
    • Lyons apologizes to Cory for missing his graduation – he had a gig and couldn't make it.
    • Cory says it's alright.
    • Lyons asks Cory what he's up to now.
    • Looking for a job, Cory replies.
    • Lyons tells him he ought to see if Troy can help him find one.
    • Cory doesn't seem too excited by the idea.
    • Lyons exits.
    • Cory picks up the bat and practices his swing.
    • Troy enters the yard.
    • Cory stares at him for a second, then exits.
    • Rose enters from the house, carrying a cake. She's taking it down to the church for a bake sale.
    • Rose tells Troy that his dinner is on the stove and that Lyons left him twenty dollars.
    • Troy tries to give Rose some money. She tells him to put it on the table.
    • He asks her when she's coming back.
    • Rose says it's none of his business and heads off to church.
    • Troy sits on the porch and sings the song about Blue the hound dog while sipping on some gin.
    • Bono enters.
    • Troy says he hasn't seen him in a while.
    • His friend tells him it's been hard to keep up with him since he got the promotion.
    • Troy doesn't like driving as much as he thought he would, because there's no one to talk to.
    • He asks Bono if he wants a drink.
    • Bono says he can't; he's about to go play dominoes at Skinner's.
    • He tells Troy he should stop by and play sometime.
    • Troy says he heard that Bono bought Lucille the refrigerator she'd been wanting.
    • Bono says he did, because he heard Troy finished his fence.
    • Troy tells his friend that he'll be sure to stop by.
    • Bono exits.
    • Troy sips some more gin and sings about Blue.
    • Cory enters.
    • Troy is sitting in the middle of the steps.
    • Cory tells his father he needs to get by.
    • Troy says he ought to say excuse me.
    • The argument escalates.
    • Cory says Troy "doesn't count around here no more" (2.4.70).
    • Troy goes off about how he pays for everything and provides for Cory.
    • Cory tells Troy to get out of his way.
    • His father yells at him to get out of the yard. He says he's through providing for Cory.
    • Cory replies that all Troy ever did was hold him back and try to make him scared of him.
    • He says he doesn't know how his mother puts up with Troy after what he did.
    • Troy tells him to shut up about Rose.
    • Cory taunts his father, saying he's too old to do anything about it.
    • Troy shoves Cory and orders him to leave the yard.
    • His son retorts that it isn't Troy's yard anyway – he bought it with Gabe's disability money, then kicked him out.
    • Troy angrily steps up to Cory.
    • Cory picks up Troy's bat and dares his father to get closer.
    • Troy lunges at Cory.
    • His son swings the bat and misses (strike one).
    • He does it again and misses once more (strike two).
    • Troy sticks out his head, daring his son to hit him with the bat.
    • Cory can't bring himself to do it (strike three).
    • Troy grabs the bat and they wrestle over it.
    • In the end, Troy yanks the bat from Cory's hands.
    • He starts to swing it at his son but thinks better of it.
    • Troy orders Cory to leave.
    • Ashamed, Cory starts to skulk off.
    • "Tell Mama I'll be back for my things," he says to Troy (2.4.110).
    • Troy replies, "They'll be on the other side of that fence" (2.4.111).
    • Cory exits.
    • Troy grabs the bat and taunts Death.
  • Act 2, Scene 5

    • Stage directions tells us that it's now 1965. It's the morning of Troy's funeral.
    • There's a funeral plaque next to the door.
    • Raynell, now seven years old, enters from the house, wearing a flannel nightgown. She stares at a small garden plot.
    • Rose comes to the door and asks Raynell what she's doing.
    • The girl says she's looking to see if her garden has grown.
    • Rose tells her it won't grow overnight and that Raynell needs to come inside to get dressed.
    • Rose goes back into the house.
    • Cory enters, wearing a Marine corporal's uniform.
    • Raynell calls to Rose, saying there's a man in the yard.
    • Rose comes out and has a tearful reunion with Cory. She's so happy that he made it.
    • Bono and Lyons enter wearing funeral clothes.
    • Lyons is impressed that Cory is now a corporal.
    • Bono says Cory reminds him of Troy when he first met him.
    • Bono takes his leave, saying he's got to go get the pallbearers ready at the church.
    • Rose offers everybody breakfast.
    • Lyons says he'll have some, but Cory tells her he isn't hungry.
    • She goes inside to whip something up.
    • Lyons congratulates Cory on his upcoming marriage.
    • He tells his brother he always knew he'd make something of himself.
    • Things haven't gone as well for Lyons. Bonnie left him a few years ago and he got in trouble for cashing other people's checks.
    • At first they sentenced him to three years in the workhouse, but now it's only nine months.
    • He says it's not so bad.
    • "You got to take the crookeds with the straights," Lyons tells Cory (2.5.57).
    • Lyons says Troy used to say that whenever he struck out.
    • He reminisces about a time when Troy struck out three times in a row, but on the fourth time at bat he knocked the ball out of the park.
    • Cory asks his brother if he is still playing music.
    • Lyons says he is, and that that's the only way he knows how to make sense of the world.
    • Rose calls from inside the house, saying Lyons's eggs are ready.
    • Before going to eat, Lyons asks Cory how he's doing with Troy's death.
    • Stage directions tell us that the two brothers share a silent moment of grief.
    • Lyons enters the house.
    • Cory wanders around the yard.
    • After a moment, Raynell approaches him.
    • She asks Cory if he used to sleep in her room.
    • He says, yeah.
    • Raynell tells him that Troy used to always call it "Cory's room" and that Cory's football is still in the closet (2.5.67).
    • Rose yells for Raynell to come inside and change her shoes.
    • After some protesting, the girl goes inside.
    • Rose comes out into the yard. She tells Cory that his father died while swinging the bat at the rag ball hanging from the tree.
    • Rose says he died with a smile on his face.
    • Hesitantly, Cory informs his mother that he won't be going to Troy's funeral.
    • "I've got to say no to him. One time in my life I got to say no," Cory tells her (2.5.79).
    • Rose goes off on him. She says being disrespectful to the memory of his father isn't going to make him a man.
    • Cory says Troy was like a shadow haunting him all his life.
    • Rose tells him that he's just like his father.
    • That's the last thing Cory wants to hear.
    • Rose says Troy tried to make sure Cory didn't turn out like him, but in the process he did just the opposite.
    • She admits her husband was a big man who was sometimes too rough and sometimes took too much.
    • Rose says that by the time Raynell came along, she and Troy had lost touch with each other.
    • She says she's determined to raise Raynell like Troy raised Cory.
    • The phone rings.
    • Raynell comes out and says it's the Reverend.
    • Rose goes to answer it.
    • Raynell asks Cory if he knew Blue, the dog Troy always used to sing about.
    • Cory and Raynell begin to sing the song together.
    • Toward the end they sing "Blue laid down and died like a man/Now he's treeing possums in the Promised Land." It seems pretty clear that, in a way, they're singing about Troy (2.5.101).
    • Gabriel comes down the alleyway shouting for Rose.
    • Lyons and Rose come out on the porch; they're glad the people at the hospital let Gabe out for the funeral.
    • Gabe announces that it's finally time for the gates of heaven to open.
    • He puts his trumpet to his lips and tries as best he can to blow.
    • No sound comes out.
    • He tries again and again but nothing happens.
    • Gabe begins to do a ritualistic dance and sings a strange song.
    • Stage directions tell us that by the time he completes the dance, "the gates of heaven stand open as wide as God's closet" (2.5.113).