Fences Play Summary, Analysis, Characters & Themes

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Fences is a play by August Wilson that follows the life of Troy Maxson, a former baseball player turned garbage collector in the 1950s. The story revolves around Troy’s strained relationships with his family, especially his son Cory. Troy’s unresolved issues, past mistakes, and his experiences with racial discrimination affect his family life, leading to conflicts and a powerful exploration of generational differences, dreams, and the impact of the past on the present. The play highlights the struggle for dignity and the consequences of broken dreams in the African American experience.

AuthorAugust Wilson
Premiere1985 (First premiered on Broadway)
Setting1957 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
ThemesRacism, family, responsibility, dreams and their limitations, generational conflicts
StyleRealistic drama with powerful dialogue and symbolism
ToneSerious and intense, with moments of humor and emotion
AwardsPulitzer Prize for Drama (1987), Tony Award for Best Play (1987)
Cultural ImpactConsidered a classic of American theater, contributing to discussions on race and family dynamics


The characters of “Fences”by August Wilson are:

  1. Troy Maxson ➤ The protagonist, a former baseball player turned garbage collector. He’s a complex character dealing with past regrets and strained family relationships.
  2. Rose Maxson ➤ Troy’s wife, a strong and resilient woman who supports her family despite facing numerous challenges.
  3. Cory Maxson Troy and Rose’s teenage son, a talented football player, and he struggles with his father’s expectations.
  4. Gabriel Maxson Troy’s brother, a mentally impaired war veteran whose situation deeply impacts Troy’s life.
  5. Jim Bono Troy’s friend and coworker, who provides insight into Troy’s life and shares his experiences.
  6. Lyons Maxson Troy’s son from a previous relationship, an aspiring musician trying to connect with his father.
  7. Raynell Maxson Troy and Alberta’s daughter, born after Alberta’s death. She symbolizes hope and new beginnings.


The themes of “Fences” by August Wilson are:

  1. Family and Relationships The play explores the complexities of family dynamics, showcasing how relationships, conflicts, and love shape the characters’ lives.
  2. Racism and Inequality It addresses the struggles of African Americans in the 1950s, highlighting racial injustice and the impact of discrimination on their lives and aspirations.
  3. Dreams and Disappointment Characters grapple with shattered dreams and aspirations, illustrating the disappointment and challenges faced while pursuing personal goals.
  4. Responsibility and Duty➤ The play focuses on the sense of responsibility and duty, both in terms of familial obligations and societal expectations, and how these affect individuals’ lives.
  5. Legacy and the Past The influence of the past on present actions and the legacy passed down through generations is a significant theme, showcasing its impact on characters’ decisions and lives.

Watch Fences Full Play Summary on YouTube


The play Fences is split into two acts. Act Two features five scenes, compared to Act One’s four. Troy and Bono’s paycheck falls on a Friday when the show opens. Every week, Troy and Bono have their drinking and conversation routine at Troy’s place. Troy has questioned their manager, Mr. Rand, about why Black workers are only permitted to lift trash rather than operate the garbage trucks. According to Bono, Troy is unfaithful to Rose, his wife. A collegiate football club has expressed interest in Cory, the son of Troy and Rose. 

Troy played in the Negro Leagues, but he was too old to play in the Major Leagues when they opened their doors to Black players. Troy never had the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues. Troy goes into great detail about his battle with death in July of 1943. Lyons knows that Troy is getting paid, so he shows up at the house. Rose brings up the fence she wants Troy to complete constructing.

Troy and Cory are mending the fence. Troy is informed by Cory that he has given up his job at the A&P, the neighborhood grocery shop, for the duration of the football season. A coach from North Carolina is traveling to Pittsburgh to watch Cory play, so Cory begs Troy to allow him to play. Troy says he won’t take it and insists Cory return to work.

Scene Four of Act One is set on Friday and is a mirror image of Scene One. Troy has been appointed as the city’s first colored garbage truck driver after winning his lawsuit. Troy and Bono recall their dads and their early years of traveling up north from their southern homes. After learning that Troy informed the football coach that Cory might not play for the squad, Cory becomes furious and returns home. Troy threatens to use “strike one” as punishment for Cory’s disrespectful actions.

Troy releases his brother Gabriel from custody. Troy and Bono are working on the fence. Rose wants the fence because she loves her family and wants to live near them, as Bono explains to Troy and Cory. Troy acknowledges his romance with Alberta to Bono. Troy is tipped by Bono that if he completes Rose’s fence, Bono will purchase the refrigerator that he has long promised to his wife Lucille. Troy informs Rose that a hearing to decide whether or not Gabriel should be recommitted to an asylum will take place in three weeks. Troy shares his romance with Rose. Troy is accused by Rose of taking rather than giving. Troy takes Rose by the arm. Cory takes Troy by surprise. Troy prevails in their duel. “Strike two” is what Troy tells Cory.

After six months, Troy says he is heading to the hospital to visit Alberta, who had an early labor. Rose informs Troy that Gabriel has been sent to an asylum since Troy was unable to understand the documents he signed to release him. Alberta gave birth to a daughter, but she passed away. After building a fence, Troy challenges Death to come get him. Troy brings Raynell home as a newborn. Rose adopts Raynell as her kid but declines to play the part of Troy’s submissive wife.

Bono suddenly turns up on Troy’s paycheck. Both Troy and Bono accept that each guy won his wager on the refrigerator and fence. Troy demands that Cory get out of the house and take care of himself. Cory brings up Troy’s latest transgressions against Rose. Cory argues that Gabriel, whose government checks covered the majority of the mortgage payments, should be the rightful owner of the house and property that Troy is evicting Cory from. After assaulting Cory physically, Troy permanently tosses him out of the house. Cory goes out. Troy taunts Death by swiping the baseball bat in the air.

Raynell plays in her freshly planted garden eight years later. Troy’s heart attack claimed his life. After serving in the Marines, Cory comes home to attend Troy’s funeral. Rose is joined by Lyons and Bono. Cory declines to go. Rose teaches Cory that he is not a man for turning down Troy’s funeral. Raynell and Cory perform a blues tune that Troy’s father wrote. Gabriel appears, gets out of the mental health facility, or both. When Gabe blows on his trumpet, nothing sounds. He gives it another go, but the trumpet is unresponsive. Gabriel dances, wounded and disappointed. The sky opens up and he lets forth a yell. “That’s the way that goes,” he adds, as the play comes to a close.


What is the play of Fences about?

The play Fences is about a black family struggling to make ends meet in America.

What is unique about the play Fences?

Fences is unique in its exploration of the African-American experience in the 1950s, particularly through the lens of the main character, Troy Maxson, a former Negro league baseball player who now works as a garbage collector.

What is the main lesson in Fences?

The main lesson in Fences is that we must accept the choices we have made in life, and learn to live with the consequences.

What is the significance of Troy’s death?

Troy’s death in Fences is significant because it allows his family to heal and move on from his mistakes. (11 words)

Why did Troy go to jail?

Troy went to jail for murder.

What happened to the baby girl in the play Fences?

The baby girl in the play Fences is taken in by Rose, Troy’s wife, who raises her as her own.

Why did Troy cheat on Rose?

Troy cheated on Rose in Fences because he was unhappy in his marriage and felt unfulfilled in his life.

What mistake did Troy make that resulted in Gabriel being sent away?

Troy mistakenly signed papers that committed Gabriel to a mental institution.

What did Rose do in Fences?

Rose supports her family and tries to keep them together, despite Troy’s flaws.

What secret did Troy tell Rose?

Troy tells Rose that he is going to be a father to a child with another woman.

Why does Rose adopt Raynell?

Rose adopts Raynell out of a sense of compassion and responsibility, even though she is hurt and angry at Troy.

Why did Rose marry Troy?

Rose married Troy because she thought he would be a good husband and father.

What mistake does Rose admit making in her marriage?

Rose admits to making the mistake of not believing in Troy’s baseball dreams.

What does the ending of Fences mean?

The ending of Fences measn that Troy’s death allows his family to finally begin to heal.

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