Fences

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Fences Act 2: Scene 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The fourth scene occurs two months later. Lyons enters the yard from the street, and knocks on the door of the Maxson household, calling for Rose. He asks her where Troy is—he wants to pay his father back twenty dollars. Rose says Troy will be back any minute, but Lyons replies that he has to pick up his girlfriend, Bonnie, so Rose tells him to put his money on the table.
Even about a year from the beginning of the play, Lyons is still borrowing money from Troy, suggesting his continued failure to really launch his career as a musician.
Themes
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
As Lyons heads to leave, Cory enters the scene, and Lyons apologizes for not making Cory’s graduation, explaining that he had a gig during it. Cory says he’s trying to find a job, and Lyons empathizes with him about how much of a struggle it is to find work. Lyons tells Cory to talk to Troy, saying that he’ll be able to get Cory a job. Lyons leaves, and Cory goes over to the tree in the yard, and picks up his father’s baseball bat.
Lyons’ failure to make his brother’s graduation seems like another example of his lack of maturity and ability to successfully organize his life. Further, Lyons’ suggestion that Cory get a job through Troy is ironic, since he’s consistently refused to do so himself.
Themes
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Troy enters the yard, and he and Cory eye one another; Cory puts the bat down, and exits the yard. As Troy goes to enter the house, Rose exits it with Raynell, carrying a cake. Troy says to her: “I’m coming in and everybody’s going out.”
One of the most significant moments of the play, Troy’s statement about everyone ‘going out’ speaks to the failure of the fence he built to keep his family together.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Troy then reaches into his pocket and grabs some money to give Rose, and she tells him to put it on the table. Troy then asks her when she’ll be coming back home, but she disregards his concern, saying that he shouldn’t bother asking—it doesn’t matter when she comes back. This angers Troy; he tries to demand an answer, but Rose just tells him that his dinner is on the stove, and all he needs to do is heat it up. Rose then exits the yard, and Troy, sitting down on the steps, takes a bottle of alcohol out from his pocket, and commences drinking and singing.
Here, we see that the tables have turned—whereas Troy used to pursue his own life and disregard Rose’s, now it’s the other way around. By refusing to tell Troy where she’s going, and telling him that his dinner is on the stove, it seems that Rose now only feels obligated to Troy in the way he used to with her: as strictly a provider, and nothing more. Rose continues to carry out what she must think to be her minimal duty as someone who lives with Troy—and later she will affirm to Cory that familial bonds shouldn’t be disregarded.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
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As Troy sings the song about his old dog Blue, Bono enters the yard. Bono says he wanted to visit with Troy, since he barely sees him anymore, ever since Troy got the promotion. Bono says he’s going to retire in two years, and Troy agrees that he’s considering it too. But Bono challenges Troy, saying that he could easily drive for another five years—Bono’s stuck hauling heavy garbage.
Even though Troy got hired as a truck driver, we can infer that he’s the only black worker at his company to do so—further, he hasn’t used his confidence and rhetorical powers at work to help Bono get hired as a driver. It’s as if he’s only advocated for equality at work in order to serve himself, not really in the service of justice at all.
Themes
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Troy says that driving the garbage truck isn’t the same as hauling garbage, since you have no one to talk to, and then he asks how Lucille, Bono’s wife, is doing. Bono says Lucille is doing alright, despite her arthritis. Troy then offers Bono a drink of his gin, but Bono resists, saying he just wanted to stop by and say hello—he has a dominoes game to make at a friend’s house. But Troy argues with Bono, saying that Bono can’t play dominoes—that he always used to beat Bono at the game. Yet Bono says he learned from Troy, and is getting better. He tells Troy to stop by his house sometime, and Troy says that he learned from Rose that Bono finally bought Lucille a refrigerator. Bono affirms this, saying that—since Troy finally built the fence—he figured he ought to keep up the deal the two made earlier, and buy his wife the fridge. Bono exits, after Troy tells him to take care and promises to “stop over” some time.
Troy and Bono’s interaction seems to reveal that a distance, has grown between the two. Yet despite Troy’s ultimate refusal to rectify things with Rose—which was his advice—Bono still remains committed to the friendship. Further, Bono seems to be becoming more confident, probably because of witnessing his hero—Troy—devolve into a less than ideal person. Like Bono challenging Troy (in the previous paragraph) by suggesting he work five more years, Bono asserts himself here against Troy’s taunts that he can’t play dominoes. Also of note is that Bono is just ‘stopping by,’ now—he doesn’t hang around to drink with Troy as he used to, and insists that he has to get to a meeting with other, perhaps new, friends.
Themes
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Cory then enters the yard, and, once again, he and Troy eye each other. Cory tries to go into the house, but Troy is blocking the entrance; after accusing Troy of blocking him, Troy reprimands Cory. Troy says that the house is his, since he bought and paid for it—he tells Cory that he ought to say “excuse me.” But Cory persists in trying to get past Troy, and Troy grabs his son’s leg, shoving him back. Troy then accuses Cory of trying to walk over him, and Cory asserts that the house belongs to him as well, and that he’s not afraid of Troy. The two get into a heated argument. Cory resists Troy’s accusation that he was walking over his father, and declares that he was simply trying to walk past Troy as he sang drunkenly to himself. This infuriates Troy, who’s in disbelief that Cory didn’t say “excuse me.”
Troy seems like he’s itching to get into an argument with Cory, just because. Troy gets incredibly irritated over what probably counts as minor disrespect on Cory’s part—though it’s unclear, from the text, who is in the right (though Troy’s judgment is impaired because of alcohol)—and blows something trivial into a big fight. This speaks to Cory’s evolved sense of confidence and autonomy in the face of his father, from whom he used to shrink in fear—but now, however, he’s declaring that he has an equal right to live in the house, and also, crucially, that he’s not afraid of his father.
Themes
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Troy then tells Cory that he’s out of line—that, because he’s grown up, he suddenly thinks his father doesn’t count, and so Cory doesn’t have to say things like “excuse me” anymore. Cory says “that’s right,” and criticizes Troy for “always talking this dumb stuff,” and asks Troy to get out of his way. When Troy accuses Cory of being ungrateful for all he gave to his son, Cory argues back, saying that Troy never gave him anything—that all Troy ever did was try to make his son afraid of his authority. Cory explains that, growing up, he was terrified of his father, and that Rose—though she tries to stand up to Troy—is afraid too.
Cory’s assertion of “that’s right,” and his comment that his father is always talking about such “dumb stuff” as how and to what extent his son does/does not comport with his authority, suggest that he’s begun to see through Troy’s ways of manipulating him and making him feel unequal and subservient as a person. Further, Cory’s bold claim that Troy never gave him anything shows that Cory has psychologically evolved to realize his own self-worth, and how his father failed to nourish it.
Themes
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Troy tells Cory to leave Rose out of their argument, and advances towards his son in rage. Cory exclaims: “What you gonna do . . . give me a whupping? You can’t whup me no more. You’re too old,” and Troy shoves him. Troy yells at Cory, telling him to get out of his yard, but Cory corrects him, saying that it’s not really his father’s yard, since Troy stole Gabe’s money to pay for it. Even more infuriated, Troy advances on Cory, telling him to get his “black ass” out of his yard. Cory picks up the baseball bat.
Cory continues to talk back to Troy, which truly demonstrates his lack of fear and the intensity of his anger. Cory’s assertion that Troy doesn’t really own the yard is the last straw for Troy, probably because it hits at the core of his hypocritical ways, such that Troy has no defense against it. All Troy can do is tell Cory to leave.
Themes
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Cory says that he isn’t going anywhere, and swings the bat at Troy, who backs across the yard. Cory misses, but then swings again—and Troy says that, if Cory wants to draw the bat on him, that he’s only going to succeed in hitting his father if he swings with the intent of killing him. Troy then sticks his head out as a vulnerable, bare target, but Cory can’t execute the would-be fatal swing, and Troy wrestles him for the bat. Threatening to hit Cory with the bat, Troy stops himself, and orders Cory to leave his house. Cory tells him to let Rose know that he’ll be back for his things, and Troy responds that all of Cory’s possessions will “be on the other side of that fence.”
Perhaps more significant than the action of Cory and Troy’s fight is Troy’s declaration that Cory’s possessions will be on the other side of the fence when he returns for them. Once again, the fence has failed to hold the Maxson family together—it’s instead come to serve as a reference point for their division. Troy invokes the fence in order to express that Cory has been expelled from the territory within it, and that, from now on, his home is outside the fence.
Themes
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Cory exits, and Troy assumes a batting stance, and starts to taunt Mr. Death. Troy shouts at Death, egging him on: “Come on! It’s between you and me now! Come on! Anytime you want . . . but I ain’t gonna be easy.” The lights go down, ending the scene.
Troy once again addresses his invented figure of death immediately following a personal tragedy—whereas last time it was in response to the loss of Alberta, now Troy is responding to the (less lethal) loss of his son.
Themes
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon