Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Plume edition of Fences published in 1986.
Act 1: Scene 1 Quotes

I ain’t worried about them firing me. They gonna fire me cause I asked a question? That’s all I did. I went to Mr. Rand and asked him, “Why?” Why you got the white mens driving and the colored lifting? Told him, “what’s the matter, don’t I count? You think only white fellows got sense enough to drive a truck. That ain’t no paper job! Hell, anybody can drive a truck. How come you got all whites driving and the colored lifting?” He told me “take it to the union.” Well, hell, that’s what I done! Now they wanna come up with this pack of lies.

Related Characters: Troy Maxson (speaker), Jim Bono
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

Troy speaks these lines to Bono, at the beginning of the play, as the two participate in one of their Friday night payday rituals of drink and conversation. Here, we see the firmness of Troy’s conviction in facing the inequality at his workplace, where only white men are hired as drivers, and black men only as the actual garbage collectors. This willingness to protest seems to suggest that standing up to everyday racism is a fundamental part of Troy’s character, since filing a complaint through his union could very well get him fired. Further, Troy’s deed attests to his extraordinary confidence in himself, since he’s presumably the first at his company to file such a complaint.

Though it’s clear that Troy is certainly a vocal opponent of white power and racist coercion, his primary motivation for filing his complaint seems to be self-gain—to simply attain, for himself, a job as a truck driver. Once he achieves this, he stops there—he doesn’t advocate for his fellow black workers. This speaks to the hypocrisy which runs like a crack through Troy’s character in many other forms throughout the play; though Troy is willing to defend the principle of equality in the name of himself, and though he does achieve some degree of it at work, he fails to defend it for those around him.


Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Fences quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

I told that boy about that football stuff. The white man ain’t gonna let him get nowhere with that football. I told him when he first come to me with it. Now you come telling me he done went and got more tied up in it. He ought to go and get recruited in how to fix cars or something where he can make a living.

Related Characters: Troy Maxson (speaker), Cory Maxson, Rose Maxson , Jim Bono
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Troy speaks these lines to Rose in the first scene of the first act, when he and Bono are engaging in one of their Friday night payday get-togethers. Rose enters their conversation for a bit, and informs Troy that Cory’s been recruited by a college football team.

Troy’s disdain for a career in sports stems from his experience playing baseball when he was younger. Despite being a very talented athlete, his hopes of playing professionally were cut short due to racial discrimination—black players simply weren’t given a chance in the major leagues, where skin color was favored over objective talent. Troy’s opinion about what counts as a viable future for Cory, therefore, is shaped by his own past, by a different era in history than the one in which Cory grew up, where—though race relations are still overwhelmingly far from equal and just—there are more opportunities for young black men than there were in Troy’s time. Troy, however, doesn’t think this, and refuses to see it. He stays stuck to his ‘outdated’ view of society, insisting that pursuing sports will only bring Cory disappointment and an unstable lifestyle. To prevent this, Troy advocates—however stubbornly—that Cory pursue a standard trade that will earn him what he imagines would be a steadier, more dependable living. Thus, the conflict between Troy and Cory over football can be explained as a war between two drastically different views of history, society, and race relations.

I wrestled with Death for three days and three nights and I’m standing here to tell you about it. . . . At the end of the third night we done weakened each other to where we can’t hardly move. Death stood up, throwed on his robe . . . had him a white robe with a hood on it. He throwed on that robe and went off to look for his sickle. Say, “I’ll be back.” Just like that. . . . I told him, say, “yeah, but . . . you gonna have to find me!” I wasn’t no fool. I wasn’t going looking for him. Death aint nothing to play with. And I know he’s gonna get me. . . . But . . . as long as I keep up my vigilance . . . he’s gonna have to fight to get me. I ain’t going easy.

Related Characters: Troy Maxson (speaker), Rose Maxson , Jim Bono
Related Symbols: “Mr. Death”
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

Troy speaks these lines to Bono and Rose, in the first scene of the first act, during the two men’s Friday night ritual of drink and conversation. Rose has just scolded Troy for drinking so much, telling him that he’s going to drink himself to death, and this has consequently inspired Troy to address the topic of death.

Here, Troy invokes his “Mr. Death,” a mythical figure with which he’s personified the abstract force of death. Troy’s frequent mentioning of Mr. Death—either in the form of the grim reaper or the devil—speaks to his tendency to tell tall tales about his life, and distort reality with fantasy. Though Troy busies himself in this passage with describing an elaborate wrestling match with the grim reaper (who is not wearing the traditional black, but rather a white robe and hood, perhaps in a reference to a member of the Ku Klux Klan), seeming to intend that his story be taken as a factual account of a real event, Rose translates fantasy into reality by explaining that Troy’s tale actually refers to the time when he contracted pneumonia.

Troy’s insistence that he will only go out with a fight, that he won’t let death take him easily, reflects his hardened and toughened outlook on life itself—an outlook which he tries to instill in Cory. Always trying to remain “vigilant” and armored-up for the approach of this figment of his imagination—for this evil being who has a very personal gripe with him—Troy’s treatment of his family is always tinged by this battle-ready mentality.

You ain’t seen no devil. I done told you that man ain’t had nothing to do with the devil. Anything you can’t understand, you want to call it the devil.

Related Characters: Rose Maxson (speaker), Troy Maxson, Lyons Maxson, Jim Bono
Related Symbols: “Mr. Death”
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

Rose speaks these lines in response to Troy’s declaration that he’s met the devil. It’s the first scene of the first act, and Lyons has just come by to ask Troy if he can borrow some money.

Here, Rose’s function as the voice of reason in her relationship with Troy becomes more apparent. Anything Troy can’t understand, she claims, he wants to attribute to the workings of the devil—to “Mr. Death,” Troy’s personified figure of the abstract, impersonal force of death. Rose thereby offers an explanation for Troy’s tendency to tell tall tales and spin fantasies as if they were true accounts of reality: rather than leaving things open to chance and the contingency of natural events (which make it impossible for anyone to successfully understand the reason behind everything that happens to them in life), Troy would rather give an explanation—even if it means telling a lie. This points to a fundamental attribute of Troy’s psyche: he’s afraid of the unexplainable—of things he doesn’t know or totally understand. This perhaps explains the hardness to his personality—why he treats a new and changing society, like the one Cory inhabits, as if it were the old one in which he grew up, hence why he won’t allow Cory to play sports.

You and me is two different people, Pop. . . . I know I got to eat. But I got to live too. I need something that gonna help me to get out of the bed in the morning. Make me feel like I belong in the world. I don’t bother nobody. I just stay with my music cause that’s the only way I can find to live in the world. Otherwise there ain’t no telling what I might do. Now I don’t come criticizing you and how you live. I just come by to ask you for ten dollars. I don’t wanna hear all that about how I live.

Related Characters: Lyons Maxson (speaker), Troy Maxson
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

Lyons speaks these lines to Troy in the first scene of the first act, after he’s asked Troy if he can borrow ten dollars. Troy chastises Lyons for asking to borrow money, criticizing Lyons for pursuing a fast, carefree, and profitless lifestyle as a professional musician, when Lyons could very well go out and get a stable, steady-paying job doing some sort of trade instead.

But Lyons, in this passage, insists that he and Troy live in two different worlds: while Troy only emphasizes material wealth and stability, Lyons prioritizes feeling joy at what he does every day, and considers music to be the only thing which adequately fuels such joy. Though Troy may be a bit caught up in his definitions of what trades count as “proper” career options, he nonetheless has a point: Lyons is thirty-four, and still isn’t financially stable. It can certainly be argued, however, that Troy played a role in Lyons’s psychological development into someone who’s financially irresponsible—and who seeks joy and recognition in his creative work to a point that threatens his basic welfare—since Troy was in prison during Lyons’ entire upbringing. On the other hand, Lyons’s inability to successfully make a living out of music might also be attributable to the fact that, as August Wilson writes in Lyons’s character description, he’s more caught up in the image of being a musician than in music for its own sake.

Act 1: Scene 2 Quotes

Jesus, be a fence all around me every day / Jesus, I want you to protect me as I travel on my way. / Jesus, be a fence all around me every day.

Related Characters: Rose Maxson (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Fence
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Rose sings at the beginning of the second scene of the first act, while she’s hanging clothes up to dry. Rose’s desire to be protected manifests, as it does in this song, through her request that Troy build a fence around their yard. For Rose, the fence embodies safety, as well as the capacity to keep her family together as a unit and set off from a dangerous outside world. Rose’s song seems to suggest that her longing for a fence also has a religious dimension—that the protection and definition of space, the definition of inside versus outside, and the togetherness of family versus outside forces of separation, have a spiritual significance. Though Rose’s wish comes true, and Troy builds a fence around their home, it actually comes to serve as a symbol more so of the Maxson family’s division than unity.

Act 1: Scene 3 Quotes

If they got a white fellow sitting on the bench . . . you can bet your last dollar he can’t play. The colored guy got to be twice as good before he get on the team. That’s why I don’t want you to get all tied up in them sports. Man on the team and what it get him? They got colored on the team and don’t use them. Same as not having them. All them teams the same.

Related Characters: Troy Maxson (speaker), Cory Maxson
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

Troy speaks these lines to Cory, in the third scene of the first act, after Cory tells him that a college football recruiter is going to pay Troy a visit to get his signature, which would grant Cory permission to join the college team.

Troy severely disapproves of Cory’s ambition to play football, believing that the world of sports hasn’t changed since when he played baseball (with the hopes of becoming professional). Since Troy’s hopes were cut short due to racial discrimination, and since he believe the status of race relations in sports hasn’t evolved at all, he thinks that Cory’s sports dreams are foolishly impractical, idealistic, and not rooted in social reality. It would make more sense, in Troy’s mind, for Cory to go out and practice a standard trade, like auto-mechanics.

Troy’s comment about benched white players not being able to play well follows from his premises that black players are always benched while whites are favored on the field, and that, in order for a black player to get time on the field, they have to be twice as good. If a white player is benched, therefore, they must be exceptionally unskilled.

I don’t care where he coming from. The white man ain’t gonna let you get nowhere with that football noway. You go on and get your book-learning so you can work yourself up in that A&P or learn how to fix cars or build houses or something, get you a trade. That way you have something can’t nobody take away from you. You go on and learn how to put your hands to some good use. Besides hauling people’s garbage.

Related Characters: Troy Maxson (speaker), Cory Maxson
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote—spoken by Troy to Cory after Troy mentions that he’s heard from Rose about Cory’s recruitment to play college football—demonstrates that, perhaps on some fundamental level, Troy truly does intend only good things for his son, even though he often fails to show it. Troy, certainly not silent on the matter of white supremacy and racial discrimination, is firmly convinced—based on his experiences of discrimination when he tried to play professional baseball—that the world of sports will not be hospitable for his son, a young black male. And, while it’s easy to pass Troy off as a pigheaded man who only wanted to make life for his son as difficult as his own has been, and to prevent Cory from excelling in ways he was never able to, it seems, here at least, that Troy genuinely thinks he’s doing Cory a favor by standing in the way of his career in sports.

This speaks to the fact that August Wilson doesn’t seem bent on portraying Troy as, in-and-of-himself, a bad person—as a bad father whose parenting decisions aren’t informed by any valid experiences. Rather, Wilson seems concerned with conveying Troy as an unfortunate byproduct of historical forces which have molded him to think about the world the way he does, and which were ultimately out of his control. Wilson is therefore able to show how the racism experienced by previous generations of black fathers informs the way they raise their children—it informs a father’s vision of the society in which he’ll raise his child, regardless if race relations have evolved and are now different than the view afforded by his outdated perspective. Thus racism from the past gets recycled, indirectly onto new generations, who must grapple with the dichotomy between their own vision of contemporary society and the less current vision of their parents.

Like you? Who the hell say I got to like you? What law is there say I got to like you? Wanna stand up in my face and ask a damn fool-ass question like that. Talking about liking somebody. . . . I go out of here every morning . . . bust my butt . . . putting up with them crackers every day . . . cause I like you? You about the biggest fool I ever saw. . . . It’s my job. It’s my responsibility! . . . A man got to take care of his family. You live in my house . . . sleep you in my bedclothes . . . fill you belly up with my food . . . cause you my son. . . . Not ‘cause I like you! Cause it’s my duty to take care of you! I owe a responsibility to you! . . . I ain’t got to like you. Mr. Rand don’t give me my money come payday cause he likes me. He gives me cause he owes me.

Related Characters: Troy Maxson (speaker), Cory Maxson
Page Number: 37-8
Explanation and Analysis:

Troy speaks these lines to Cory in the third scene of the first act, after Cory asks Troy why he’s never liked him as a son.

Troy’s harshness and fundamental lack of any loving qualities as a father come to a pinnacle here. Troy insists that his duty as a father is simply a contractual one—that he’s responsible out of sheer contractual obligation, like a job, to provide for Cory, hence why Troy compares their relationship to the one he shares with his boss, Mr. Rand. For Troy, his duty to provide for his son isn’t born out of love, admiration, or any higher moral, emotional, or psychological forces. Fatherhood is not a duty or labor of love: it’s just a basic labor which, as if decreed by some law, he’s required to do. Therefore, insofar as it’s only Troy’s obligation to meet certain requirements as a provider, he needn’t go beyond them—he needn’t do such things as actually treat his son with kindness, or show him compassion.

Troy’s appeal to duty as the fundamental familial bond, as opposed to anything psychological (like love), shows how he views his relationship to his family in terms of the minimum amount of participation that’s required of him. This narcissistic view is what allows him to go off, have an affair with Alberta, and not question his conscience.

I don’t want him to be like me! I want him to move as far away from my life as he can get. You the only decent thing that ever happened to me. I wish him that. But I don’t wish him a thing else from my life. I decided seventeen years ago that boy wasn’t getting involved in no sports. Not after what they did to me in the sports.

Related Characters: Troy Maxson (speaker), Rose Maxson
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Troy speaks these lines to Rose when she enters the yard after Troy spoke to Cory about his duty as a father. Cory’s exited the yard to go to the A&P store, in an attempt to get his job back (which he gave away because of the time commitment required by football). Troy says this in response to Rose’s comment that Cory is only trying to please Troy, to be like Troy, and that Troy should therefore ease up on his son.

We see here, once again, something of a decent, perhaps noble motivation behind Troy’s approach to parenting Cory—behind such decisions as not allowing Cory to play college football. Troy just wants to prevent Cory from repeating his own life—a life of many hardships and struggles, one of which was his failed attempt to become a professional baseball player in the face of racial discrimination. Though Troy only seems to communicate with Cory in a harsh, angry tone, he explains here that he only wants to prevent his son from wasting his time pursuing a future—a career in sports—that’s simply not accepting of black men.

Act 1: Scene 4 Quotes

How he gonna leave with eleven kids? And where he gonna go? He ain’t knew how to do nothing but farm. No, he was trapped and I think he knew it. But I’ll say this for him . . . he felt a responsibility toward us. Maybe he ain’t treated us the way I felt he should have . . . but without that responsibility he could have walked off and left us . . . made his own way.

Related Characters: Troy Maxson (speaker), Lyons Maxson
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Troy speaks these lines to Lyons in the fourth scene of the first act, when Lyons stops by to pay his father back the ten dollars he borrowed in the first scene of the play. Bono and Troy are both discussing their fathers.

What’s most striking about Troy’s description of his father, perhaps, is the fact that Troy’s explanation to Cory about his duty as a father corresponds exactly with the sense of responsibility Troy attributes to his own dad. In telling Cory that he’s not obligated, as a father, to like his son, but only to provide for him materially, Troy pretty much fits the mold of his own father. Like his own dad, Troy certainly doesn’t treat his son the way Cory feels he should, but Troy nonetheless claims to feel responsible to provide for him in certain ways to a minimal extent. This similarity between Troy and his own father seems to highlight Wilson’s motif about the recycling of past generations into the new. Troy’s approach to being a father is informed by his own past; even though he largely disliked his father, Troy was inalterably molded by him, and his approach to parenting Cody is consequently affected by that molding.

Act 2: Scene 1 Quotes

Some people build fences to keep people out . . . and other people build fences to keep people in. Rose wants to hold on to you all. She loves you.

Related Characters: Jim Bono (speaker), Troy Maxson, Cory Maxson
Related Symbols: The Fence
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Bono speaks these lines to Troy and Cory in the first scene of the second act, while they’re all working on the fence. Cory has just asked what the point of building the fence is in the first place.

Fully aware that Troy is having an affair with Alberta, Bono wants to evoke, with this statement, a realization in Troy about the gravity of what he’s doing to Rose—that he’s betraying his bond with an incredibly loving, good, and strong woman. As Troy’s best friend, Bono surely knows that Troy’s mind is prone to fantasy—Troy has believed that he can lie to Bono about being monogamous and make him believe it, when Bono has, multiple times throughout the play, told Troy that he’s explicitly seen him interacting with Alberta in an adulterous way. By bypassing Troy’s imaginary world of defense mechanisms against the truth of his actions, and getting Troy to realize he’s forgotten about and pushed aside the love of his incredible wife, he can perhaps trigger in Troy a remembrance of when he was deeply in love with Rose—he can help Troy empathize with Rose in a way that will make him be ashamed of his actions with Alberta. This seems to be Bono’s goal here.

Rose, I done tried all my life to live decent . . . to live a clean . . . hard . . . useful life. I tried to be a good husband to you. In every way I knew how. Maybe I come into the world backwards, I don’t know. But . . . you born with two strikes on you before you come to the plate. You got to guard it closely . . . always looking for the curve-ball on the inside corner. You can’t afford to let none get past you. You can’t afford a call strike.

Related Characters: Troy Maxson (speaker), Rose Maxson
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

Troy speaks these lines to Rose, in the first scene of the second act, after he’s confessed to her about his affair and baby with Alberta. This is another instance where Troy’s obsession with the imagery of baseball takes over his use of language. Here, particularly, it’s apparent that—by his use of baseball metaphors to describe his moral character and ethical status as a man “born with two strikes” already against him—Troy’s imagination bypasses actually dealing with the reality of his actions. Instead of discussing, explicitly, how he has betrayed his wife by sleeping with another woman, Troy diverts from the actual content of his actions with metaphorical language that borders on meaninglessness. This is another example demonstrating Troy’s difficulty which distinguishing his imagination from reality—from the real experiences of other people around him.

We’re not talking about baseball! We’re talking about you going off to lay in bed with another woman . . . and then bring it home to me. That’s what we’re talking about. We ain’t talking about no baseball.

Related Characters: Rose Maxson (speaker), Troy Maxson, Alberta
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Rose speaks these lines in response to the last quote, spoken by Troy. Once again, Rose proves herself to be the voice of reason when faced with Troy’s excessively imaginative mind that frequently covers up truth with distracting, invented images. As soon as Troy, entangled in his unclear language about being born with “two strikes on you before you come to the plate,” tries desperately to divert Rose’s attention from the concrete reality of his adultery, she refuses to give into his confused world of euphemisms and images. As the voice of reason, she rejects Troy’s words, and insists that nothing in their conversation has anything to do with baseball—they’re talking about Troy’s betrayal, nothing else.

I been standing with you! I been right here with you, Troy. I got a life too. I gave eighteen years of my life to stand in the same spot with you. Don’t you think I ever wanted other things? Don’t you think I had dreams and hopes? What about my life? What about me? Don’t you think it ever crossed my mind to want to know other men? That I wanted to lay up somewhere and forget about my responsibilities? That I wanted someone to make me laugh so I could feel good? . . . I gave everything I had to try and erase the doubt that you wasn’t the finest man in the world. . . . 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!

Related Characters: Rose Maxson (speaker), Troy Maxson
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Perhaps the most powerful moment of the entire play, Rose speaks these lines to Troy after he’s confessed to his affair with Alberta.

This is the first time in the play when Rose’s own voice—a voice which articulates her own feelings, hopes, opinions, desires and imagined fantasies—gets fully expressed. This is the first time that Rose expresses herself without any censorship, without any hesitation before Troy’s excessive presence, his narcissistic occupation of space. Here, Rose affirms that she has dreams and longings of her own, even though Troy addresses and talks to her as if she didn’t have any. She affirms that she has a mind and imagination and needs of her own, and that she certainly hasn’t been perfectly content, over the past eighteen years with Troy, with sacrificing nearly all her own desires just to be with him, while Troy constantly refused to acknowledge the extent to which Rose gave of herself.

While Troy often rambles about fantasies and figments of his imagination, and while Rose usually serves as the voice of reason, here she actually gives in to her own sense of imagination—her connection to her own dreams—and expresses it face-to-face with Troy. Yet, unlike Troy, she expresses her feelings with maturity and clarity; she isn’t narcissistically absorbed in her own created imagery.

I’m gonna tell you what your mistake was. See . . . you swung at the ball and didn’t hit it. That’s strike one. See, you in the batter’s box now. You swung and you missed. That’s strike one. Don’t you strike out.

Related Characters: Troy Maxson (speaker), Cory Maxson
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

Troy speaks this to Cory in the first scene of the second act. Troy has just confessed to Rose about his affair with Alberta and the baby they’re going to have; after they argue for a while, Troy grabs Rose by the arm, and Rose tells Troy that he’s hurting her. Cory then enters the scene, and pushes Troy off from Rose—this is when Troy warns Cory that he’s had “strike one.” Troy uses this metaphor about “strikes,” a term borrowed from baseball, in order to describe whenever Cory has severely insulted him.

The fact that Troy uses this metaphor in such a serious manner—in a moment of real anger and confrontation—suggests that he associates more than a bit of literary flair with its usage. “Striking out” has a real, visceral meaning for Troy, who conceives of his relationship with Cory as actually being structured like a baseball player’s turn at the batter’s box. This demonstrates just how fundamentally Troy’s experience with baseball has shaped his imagination—and we already know that he has difficulty distinguishing his imagination from reality. Troy’s repeated use of this metaphor to name events where Cory has crossed the line in his role as a son therefore shows how Troy’s psyche is caught up in such imagery, much like Gabriel is caught up in images of judgement day and hellhounds. This similarity between the two brothers suggests that Troy’s imagination and obsession with certain images and figures—like Mr. Death—isn’t all that different from his mentally ill brother. In a way, therefore, we can read Troy’s mind as a victim of trauma—the hardships and racism faced in his past—much like Gabriel’s brain suffers from a traumatic injury.

Act 2: Scene 4 Quotes

I’m coming in and everybody’s going out…

Related Characters: Troy Maxson (speaker), Cory Maxson, Rose Maxson , Lyons Maxson, Raynell
Related Symbols: The Fence
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

Troy speaks this line in the fourth scene of the second act. Lyons has just stopped by the Maxson house to drop off some money for Troy, who’s not yet there, and Rose tells him to put it on the table. As he leaves, Cory enters the yard; they talk briefly (Lyons apologizes for missing Cory’s high school graduation), and Lyons exits. Then, Troy enters the yard; as he approaches the steps to the house, Rose exits the house with Raynell, carrying a cake, and Troy says this line.

Though short and succinct, this is perhaps one of the most significant quotes of the entire play. It not only signals that Troy is starting to realize the division, the rift opening between him and his family, but also hints at the failure of the fence to keep the Maxson family together as one solid unit. While one goal of the fence—at least Rose’s intended goal—was to protect her family and enclose them in a space of their own, this ambition has utterly failed in the face of Troy’s betrayal of Rose. The fence speaks more to division and separation than unity or togetherness; it serves as a fault line with which to reference not some divide between the family and the world, but a divisive crack that runs between the family and itself.

Act 2: Scene 5 Quotes

The whole time I was growing up . . . living in his house . . . Papa was like a shadow that followed you everywhere. It weighed on you and sunk into your flesh. It would wrap around you and lay there until you couldn’t tell which one was you anymore. That shadow digging in your flesh. Trying to crawl in. Trying to live through you. Everywhere I looked, Troy Maxson was staring back at me . . . I’m just saying I’ve got to find a way to get rid of the shadow, Mama.

Related Characters: Cory Maxson (speaker), Troy Maxson, Rose Maxson
Page Number: 96-7
Explanation and Analysis:

Cory speaks these lines to Rose in the last scene of the play, at the Maxson household before Troy’s funeral. Cory’s just arrived: he hasn’t been home presumably in years, having joined the marines. He’s just told Rose that he doesn’t intend to attend Troy’s funeral, and she argues that it would be wrong to miss his father’s funeral.

Cory’s description of Troy as a shadow that, upon wrapping around him, would mix itself up with him to the extent that he couldn’t distinguish himself from it, portrays Troy as an invasive force of malice that distorted Cory’s sense of self. Trying to steer clear and avoid his father as a child, Cory, it seems, ultimately found it impossible to escape Troy, who had the ability to infiltrate Cory’s psyche with a non-corporeal weight, which bogged his personality down to the extent that its edges couldn’t be discerned—Cory couldn’t tell where his own personality started or ended.

This inability to distinguish between the inside and outside of Cory’s persona hints at the function of the fence at the core of the play. As a divider that creates a separation in space between an interior and an exterior, the fence defined the Maxson household as a discernible group against the outside world. Ironically, even though Cory was instrumental in building the fence, it seems like it took him a very long time—until after he left home—to build such a fence in his mind, and begin to be able to tell himself apart from the shadow of his father.

No matches.