Fences

Fences Act 1: Scene 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Scene three occurs four hours later; Rose is taking down the clothes she was hanging up at the beginning of the second scene, and Cory enters the yard with his football equipment. Rose tells Cory that his father was angry upon finding out that he hadn’t finished his chores before practice, and that he wouldn’t be around to help Troy with building the fence. Rose then tells Cory to start on his chores, and he enters the house. Troy then enters the scene, and Rose asks him what the score of the baseball game was, but Troy brushes the question off, asking “What I care about the game?” He then tries to kiss Rose, but she resists him, irritated that Troy, so it seems, didn’t go to listen to the game at all, blowing off building the fence for no good reason. Troy then chases Rose around, trying to land a kiss on her.
Yet again, Troy has been angered by Cory for reasons pertaining to his commitment to football; while Cory works hard at and dedicates himself to the sport—which has a promising future in store for him—all Troy seems to care about is whether or not Cory gets his small, menial chores done, football not being a valid excuse. Further, when Troy enters the yard and appears to have not gone to listen to the game, we can infer that Bono’s suspicions about Troy’s fidelity are justified: where, after all, did Troy go? Alberta’s, likely.
Themes
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Angry that Cory wasn’t around earlier to help him build the fence, Troy yells at him, summoning him to the yard. He reprimands Cory for not finishing his chores before heading to practice, and then puts him to work cutting boards for the fence. After a long pause, Cory asks his father why he doesn’t buy a television. Troy says he doesn’t see the point in owning one, but after Cory explains that a TV would allow them to watch the World Series, Troy asks how much one costs. Cory explains that a TV costs 200 dollars, saying that it isn’t much money. Troy thinks just the opposite: he tells Cory that it’ll cost 246 dollars to re-tar their roof before the winter. Cory replies that he’d rather buy a TV, and fix the roof himself whenever it started to leak. Troy asks him where he intends to get the money, but Cory suggests that his father has plenty of money. Troy, however, claims to only have 72 dollars and 73 cents in his bankbook. Finally, the two make a deal, and Troy agrees to pay 100 dollars towards the TV if Cory can come up with his own 100 dollars.
Troy and Cory’s interactions are always awkward and heated; they never seem to share a moment of agreement or love proper to a healthy father-son bond. Troy constantly scolds Cory and has no real interest in the daily events of Cory’s life or in the activities which inspire or fascinate him. Troy’s dialogue with Cory principally consists in disciplining him, which largely amounts to cutting him down. Still, Cory’s desire for his father to buy a T.V. does demonstrate a fundamental disconnect between his and his father’s view of their family’s economic situation, a disconnect which Troy perhaps isn’t unjustified in trying to get Cory to acknowledge. Further, Troy’s willingness to meet Cory halfway for the money shows that he’s willing to reach out and compromise with his son at least on some level.
Themes
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
After Cory returns to cutting the boards, he mentions that the Pirates won the baseball game that day, making five wins in a row. Troy, however, says that he’s not thinking about the Pirates, since they have an all-white team. He claims that the Pirates only play a Puerto Rican boy on the team half the time, but that he could really be something if they’d just give him the chance. Cory disagrees, saying that the Puerto Rican player has plenty of chances to play, but Troy means regular play at every game. Cory counters his father, saying that the Pirates have some white guys who also don’t play every day, and Troy comments that, if a white man is sitting on the bench, you can be certain he’s not a good player, since black players “have to be twice as good” to get on the team. He says that this is the reason why he doesn’t want Cory to get all entangled in the sports world.
Here, the disconnect between Cory and Troy’s views of race relations comes to the fore. While Troy bases his view of race relations in the world of professional sports on his own experiences in the past—an era less progressive than the one in which Cory has grown up (though Cory’s is far from perfect), and in which Troy himself was discriminated against as a black baseball player—Cory sees the world of sports as much more inclusive. Cory doesn’t view his future as restricted by racist white power in the way that his father does.
Themes
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Troy then says that Rose informed him about Cory’s recruitment. Cory explains that a recruiter will be coming by to speak with Troy and have him sign papers granting Cory permission to play college football. Troy bickers with Cory, insisting that he keep working at the A&P (a local grocery store), but Cory says he got his boss, Mr. Stawicki, to hold his job until the football season ends. Troy insists that there’s no future for Cory, as a black male, in professional sports, and that he should learn a trade like fixing cars or building houses, so that he can have something no one can take away from him. When Troy demands that Cory keep working during the season, Cory says that Stawicki has already filled his position. Annoyed by this, Troy calls Cory a fool, and orders him to get his job back—if Cory isn’t working, Troy says, then he can’t play football.
Troy and Cory’s different perspectives on race, as well as what counts as a proper profession, continue to collide. While Cory works hard at and displays a genuine dedication towards football, this simply isn’t enough for Troy, who views his son’s pursuits in football as frivolous, thinking that work at the local grocery store is a more valuable use of his time, even though football could pave his son’s path towards a higher education. Troy doesn’t care about any of that, and is concerned with Cory’s immediate ability to make a steady income, and finds it foolish that his son should give such a thing up for a future in sports.
Themes
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
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Alarmed by his father’s harshness, Cory asks Troy why he never liked him as a son. Troy demeans this question, saying that there’s no law demanding that he love Cory. Troy asks Cory whether or not he’s provided food, clothes, and shelter, and after Cory answers “yessir,” Troy says that the reason he does all those things for Cory has nothing to do with liking him—rather, it’s just his job, his responsibility. Troy adds that “liking your black ass wasn’t part of the bargain.” Troy then compares his relationship with his son to his relationship to Mr. Rand, saying that Rand doesn’t pay Troy because he likes him, but rather because he’s obligated to. After Troy tells him to get out of his face, Cory leaves and heads to the A&P.
Once again, Troy’s harsh coldness as a father surfaces, and we see yet another awkward and confrontational encounter between the two, devoid of any warmth or love that would characterize a healthy father-son bond. Troy utterly rejects love as something necessary to his relationship with his son, citing responsibility—duty—as the sole link which relates him to his son: a relationship born out of contractual obligation and necessity, and not out of any higher moral, emotional, or psychological forces.
Themes
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Rose enters the yard, having been listening to Troy and Cory’s conversation from behind the screen door on the porch. She asks Troy why he won’t let Cory play football, and Troy exclaims: “I don’t want him to be like me!” He tells Rose that she’s the only decent thing that’s ever happened to him, and that he wishes Cory will someday find a woman like her, but he wishes nothing else from his life upon his son, and that he decided when Cory was born that he would not get involved in sports, after what happened to Troy. With strong conviction, he’s assured that sports will only bring his son harm; when Rose tries to tell him that the world has changed from Troy’s youth, Troy diverts from her comment, and just says that he’s done everything he could for his family, and that he can’t give anything else. He exits into the house.
Here, we see that Troy perhaps really does only mean to do his son some good—that he has Cory’s best interests in mind when he downplays football as a future that isn’t viable for a young black man. Yet, it still seems like Troy is fundamentally wrong in his stubbornness, and his refusal to give up his outdated perception of race relations in the world of professional sports. It therefore seems that August Wilson is more interested in portraying Troy’s views as products of historically racist forces—of racism that has shaped his mind—than as someone who, in-and-of-himself, is a force of anger wanting to hold his son back from a good future.
Themes
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon