Fences

Rose Maxson Character Analysis

Wife to Troy and mother of Cory, Rose represents the maternal gentleness of the Maxson household. In opposition to Troy’s toughness and disrespect for Cory’s feelings and opinions, Rose is a source of love and understanding. While Troy discourages Cory’s dream of playing football, Rose supports her son’s ambitions, and tries to convince her husband that times have changed since he played sports—that Cory’s skin color will not bar him from a future in sports, like it might have in the past. Rose largely serves as the voice of reason for her husband. While Troy is prone to telling tall tales about his life, Rose always corrects him and translates his fictions into the actual acts they represent. When Troy tries to say that he met the Grim Reaper and wrestled with him, Rose decodes his fantasy, and reveals that he’s talking about when he contracted pneumonia. Rose is also characterized by her devotion to her family, and her willingness to sacrifice her desires to be the best wife and mother she possibly can, and provide the most love she can muster. In contrast, Troy gives into his desires even when they take him beyond his commitment to the family, as we see in his affair with Alberta. Rose, however, believes in preserving the bonds which hold her family together, as embodied in her wish for a fence to border her home. Wanting to keep her family close to her, and the integrity of its bonds intact, Rose is crushed when she learns that Troy has betrayed her and the private, enclosed space of protection she envisions as the relationship they vowed to sustain and protect.

Rose Maxson Quotes in Fences

The Fences quotes below are all either spoken by Rose Maxson or refer to Rose Maxson. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Plume edition of Fences published in 1986.
Act 1: Scene 1 Quotes

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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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Act 1: Scene 3 Quotes

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:

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Act 2: Scene 1 Quotes

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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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Rose Maxson Character Timeline in Fences

The timeline below shows where the character Rose Maxson appears in Fences. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1: Scene 1
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
As the two men continue to crudely discuss Alberta’s body, Rose enters from inside the house, walking onto the porch where Troy and Bono are seated.... (full context)
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Rose asks the two men what they’re talking about, and Troy responds by saying that Rose... (full context)
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
...could do any better, and thought that “only white folks had inside toilets and things.” Rose replies by saying that a lot of people don’t know that they could be doing... (full context)
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Rose says that Cory has been recruited by a college football team, but Troy says that... (full context)
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
Rose tells Troy that he’s going to drink himself to death, and Troy responds by saying... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Lyons rejects Rose’s invitation that he stay for dinner, saying that he found himself in the neighborhood and... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
...Troy’s probably paid off the interest by now, he says he’s afraid to stop paying. Rose says Troy’s lying, and that he got the furniture from a local vendor. (full context)
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...in the morning—it’s his passion—and that he and Troy are two very different people. Finally, Rose convinces Troy to give Lyons the money, and Lyons leaves shortly after. Troy says to... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
The first scene ends with Troy telling Bono that he loves Rose “so much it hurts,” and that he “done run out of ways of loving her,”... (full context)
Act 1: Scene 2
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
The second scene begins the next morning; Rose is hanging clothes, and singing a song about Jesus protecting her: “Jesus, be a fence... (full context)
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Troy then asks where Cory is, and Rose says he’s at football practice. This upsets Troy, since Cory hadn’t finished his chores before... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
...a song about plums he has for sale. Not seeing any plums in Gabriel’s basket, Rose asks him where they are, and Gabriel says that he will have some tomorrow, since... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Rose re-enters the yard from the house, and implies to Troy that Gabriel should go back... (full context)
Act 1: Scene 3
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Scene three occurs four hours later; Rose is taking down the clothes she was hanging up at the beginning of the second... (full context)
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Troy then says that Rose informed him about Cory’s recruitment. Cory explains that a recruiter will be coming by to... (full context)
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... (full context)
Act 1: Scene 4
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...a teammate, who asks him if he can borrow some cleats. From within the house Rose calls for Cory, who is standing in the doorway on the porch, telling him not... (full context)
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
After Cory leaves, Rose goes back into the house, and Troy and Bono enter the yard. Troy is carrying... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...based on Rand’s expression as he delivered him the good news. Troy calls out for Rose several times, and when she enters the scene she asks Troy what the result of... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...him to just keep the money for the next time he wants to borrow some. Rose argues with Troy, telling him to take the money, and Lyons eventually hands it to... (full context)
Mortality Theme Icon
Gabriel then comes by, singing his usual song about preparing for Judgment Day. He gives Rose a flower—a rose—and says he’s been chasing hellhounds. Lyons commends him, saying that someone has... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...goes to leave, Gabe says Troy is mad at him, and Lyons asks Troy why. Rose explains that, because Gabe moved out of Troy’s house to have his own place (paying... (full context)
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
After Troy and Rose bicker about why Gabe left to live on his own, Rose tells Troy that she... (full context)
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Gabriel re-enters the yard with a sandwich Rose made him, and Troy says that he doesn’t know what happened to his father, just... (full context)
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
...money, and that, after one thing led to another, he met Lyons’ mom (different than Rose). When Lyons was born, Troy had to start stealing three times as much—he says that,... (full context)
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...to hang out in the clubs Lyons frequents. Lyons leaves soon after, and Troy asks Rose if supper is ready, implying—in front of Bono—that she should hurry, since they’re overdue to... (full context)
Act 2: Scene 1
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
...writes—in a note in the script—that Cory’s swing is awkward and less sure than Troy’s. Rose enters the yard from the house and asks for Cory’s help with a cupboard, and... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Rose replies that she’ll talk to Troy when he returns, explaining that he had to go... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Frustrated with building the fence, Cory questions why Rose even wants it built in the first place. Supporting Rose, Bono replies that, while some... (full context)
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...house to get a saw. Troy asks Bono what he meant by his comment about Rose wanting to hold on to her family, and Bono, believing Troy to be cheating on... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...by Bono’s comment, Troy wonders what motive Bono has in saying all of this about Rose, but Bono denies having anything particular on his mind. Troy is still unsatisfied by this,... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...while he didn’t go out looking for anything, and thinks that no woman compares with Rose, Alberta has nonetheless stuck onto him, and that he can’t shake her off. (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
...Troy says, will always tell him right from wrong, and that he won’t ever mistreat Rose, adding that he loves and respects her for all she’s added to his life. (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
While Bono doesn’t doubt Troy’s love and respect for Rose, he says he worries about what will happen when Rose finds out, since sooner or... (full context)
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...the refrigerator she’s been wanting. Bono replies that once Troy finishes building the fence for Rose, he’ll buy Lucille her refrigerator. Bono then leaves to get back to Lucille, saying that... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Rose then enters the yard from the house, and asks Troy why the police arrested Gabe,... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Rose then tells Troy to come inside for lunch, but he says he has something to... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Rose tells Gabe to go inside and get a piece of watermelon, and after he leaves,... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...make anything go away—that he’s already done the deed and he can’t wish it away—but Rose counters by saying that he doesn’t want it to go away. Maybe, she says, Troy... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Troy insists that “we”—he and Rose—can get a handle on their dispute, but Rose asks where this “we” that Troy is... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Rose replies, wondering whether Troy intends to keep seeing her or not, and he says that... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
After Rose proclaims that it was her job, as his wife, to take care of Troy—and that... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Rose tells Troy he should have stayed in her bed, and Troy responds that, when he... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Troy responds by saying that he’d stood on first base for eighteen years with Rose, and, finally thought that, “well goddamn it . . . go on for it!” But... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Troy responds by telling Rose that she says he takes and never gives—and he grabs her, painfully, by the arm.... (full context)
Act 2: Scene 2
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...six months later; Troy enters the yard from the house and, before he can leave, Rose appears from inside, and says she wants to talk. Troy asks her why, after months... (full context)
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Rose tells Troy that she can’t keep living like this—alone, distanced from her husband, always wondering... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Troy, still resisting any genuine communication with Rose, says that he’s on his way to see Alberta at the hospital, since it looks... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
The telephone inside Troy and Rose’s home rings, and Rose goes to answer it. She returns, and we learn that it... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
Troy responds by saying that he’s not pushing anyone away, and asks Rose to give him some room to breathe and process Alberta’s death. Rose leaves, and Troy... (full context)
Act 2: Scene 3
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
The next scene occurs three days later, in the evening. Rose is inside the house, listening to the ball game, awaiting Troy. When Troy enters the... (full context)
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...she’s smiling, saying that he’s scared since they don’t have a home at the moment. Rose then enters from the house again, and Troy begs her to help him take care... (full context)
Act 2: Scene 4
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Blackness and Race Relations 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... (full context)
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Act 2: Scene 5
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
...eight years after its beginning. Troy has died, and it’s the morning of his funeral. Rose, Bono, and Raynell (now seven years old) are gathered at the Maxson household. Raynell is... (full context)
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...sternness.” Cory says “hi” to Raynell—Raynell doesn’t remember him—and asks if her mother is home. Rose comes to the door to see Cory, and is shocked to see him—we get the... (full context)
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Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
As Rose and Cory embrace, Bono and Lyons enter the yard—they’re both impressed by Cory’s accomplishments in... (full context)
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Bono leaves to go help at the church where Troy’s funeral will be held, and Rose re-introduces Raynell to Cory. Rose then tells Raynell to get ready for the funeral, and... (full context)
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Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
...get out of bed in the morning. Lyons then exits to eat the breakfast which Rose has prepared, asking, briefly, if Cory is doing alright—Cory nods, and August Wilson writes that... (full context)
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...he used to sleep in her room. Cory says yes—it used to be his room—and Rose comes to the door, telling Raynell to put on her good shoes for the funeral.... (full context)
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...that he just wants to find a way to get rid of his father’s shadow. Rose replies: “You just like him. You got him in you good.” (full context)
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Rose continues, saying that the shadow Cory mentioned was just Cory growing into himself—that it had... (full context)
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Rose then goes into a long description of her own relationship with Troy. She says that... (full context)
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Raynell enters the yard, and tells Rose that the reverend is on the phone. Rose exits into the house, and Raynell once... (full context)
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Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
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Gabriel then enters the scene, and Rose, Cory, and Lyons are delighted to see him. Gabriel announces that “it’s time to tell... (full context)