Fences

“Mr. Death” Symbol Analysis

“Mr. Death” Symbol Icon

Death appears as a personified figure in Troy’s fanciful tales about wrestling with death and buying furniture from the devil. Troy’s typically stubborn sense of manhood and strength largely derives from his relationship with death. Having beaten all the obstacles thrown at him in his early years and survived, Troy props up his sense of self-worth and accomplishment through personifying death into a tangible form he’s proactively and successfully fended off. Further, by rendering death or the forces of destruction into a person (the grim reaper and the devil), Troy gives the unpredictability and mystery of death a concrete form, and thereby attributes a kind of reason and discernible motive to the process of death. Death, for Troy, is therefore a force that personally tries to antagonize and destroy him. This personification provides a reason for the suffering of Troy’s past beyond its basis in racism, and the severe poverty into which it landed him; it gives a higher purpose to what, in reality, boils down to a corrupt society and a childhood made difficult by abusive and unloving parents. “Mr. Death,” therefore, resembles the fence, since its invention helps Troy fence-off the harsher reality that’s largely cheated him in life.

“Mr. Death” Quotes in Fences

The Fences quotes below all refer to the symbol of “Mr. Death”. 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 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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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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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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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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“Mr. Death” Symbol Timeline in Fences

The timeline below shows where the symbol “Mr. Death” appears in Fences. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1: Scene 1
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
...seen him,” he says, “I done wrestled with him.” Troy says that he asked “ Mr. Death ” what he wanted, and looked him “dead in the eye,” without any fear. Rose... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
...promising to pay Troy back. But Troy says he’d rather die playing blackjack with the devil than give Lyons ten dollars. (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
Troy then claims to have seen the devil, saying that the devil sold him furniture when he couldn’t get enough credit. The devil,... (full context)
Act 1: Scene 4
Mortality Theme Icon
...saying that someone has to chase them, and Gabe (Gabriel) says that, even though the devil is strong, he has his trusty trumpet ready for the judgment time. When Lyons asks... (full context)
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...ran off, and Troy says his father was so angry that he looked like the devil. All Troy remembers after that is waking up lying by the creek, with his dog... (full context)
Act 2: Scene 2
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
...give him some room to breathe and process Alberta’s death. Rose leaves, and Troy addresses Mr. Death . Speaking to his own personified phantom of death, Troy challenges Mr. Death, saying that... (full context)
Act 2: Scene 4
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Mortality 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... (full context)