Fences

The Fence Symbol Icon

The fence that Rose asks Troy to build, and envisions as wrapping protectively around her family, can be read in a several ways. On one level, the division effected by the fence seems to echo the separation of people and social spaces central to the workings of segregation—an unjust practice pervading the time in which the play takes place. Yet, while Troy and Cory’s construction of a border around their home may resonate with the racial divide plaguing the society it pictures, it’s also an emblem of black courage and strength, and of the integrity of black lives and history. Rose yearns to fence-off and fence-in her family’s lives and the bond connecting them from a racist world of white dominance—from a society bent on delegitimizing black life and casting it as second-class. The fence therefore also speaks to the psychological need Rose and many like her felt, and still feel, to preserve an inner, private life against the brunt of an outside world where that life is rejected and made to conform to the mechanisms of white power.

The fence also seems to serve as a figure for Troy’s career, resembling the perimeter of a baseball stadium: the fence he strived, with his bat, to hit beyond. Despite Troy’s talent, his skin color barred him from any chance of a steady career in the white-dominated world of professional baseball. The fence of Troy’s career, therefore, was at once a marker of his skill whenever he hit a home run, as well as a border enclosing a world and a future he could never fully enter. Therefore, when Troy builds the fence for Rose, he’s building his own limit, his own arena—a limit not imposed upon him by forces of discrimination out of his control.

While it’s critical to read the fence as a symbol of race division and how it affects the Maxson family, the motivation to build it can also be read as stemming from Rose’s sheer, maternal desire to protect and fortify her family. Additionally, Troy’s efforts to wall-off his home resonate with his ongoing conflict with “Mr. Death.” By fortifying the perimeter of his home, Troy gestures towards his desire to dam-up any lethal forces assailing him from the outside world.

The Fence Quotes in Fences

The Fences quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Fence. 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 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 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:

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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.

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:

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.

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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The Fence Symbol Timeline in Fences

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Fence appears in Fences. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1: Scene 2
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...Rose is hanging clothes, and singing a song about Jesus protecting her: “Jesus, be a fence all around me every day.” Troy enters the scene, and Rose tells him how Ms.... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...heading to a bar to listen to the ball game, saying he’ll work on the fence when he gets back. (full context)
Act 1: Scene 3
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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... (full context)
Act 2: Scene 1
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...to go inside the house and get Cory, since he wants his help building the fence. (full context)
Blackness and Race Relations Theme Icon
Bono starts to help Troy with sawing wood for the fence, and Troy says that all the police wanted, in arresting Gabe, was money—that they’ve arrested... (full context)
Practicality, Idealism, and Race Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
...care about is money. Bono then criticizes Troy for using hard wood to build the fence (probably because he finds it difficult to cut), saying that all he needs is soft... (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... (full context)
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...buy Lucille 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,... (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
...personified phantom of death, Troy challenges Mr. Death, saying that he’s going to build a fence around his yard to keep him out, and that Death had better bring his army... (full context)
Act 2: Scene 4
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Manhood and Fathers Theme Icon
Family, Duty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...Troy responds that all of Cory’s possessions will “be on the other side of that fence.” (full context)