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Fences

August Wilson

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions and Suggested Essay Topics

full title · Fences

author · August Wilson

type of work · Play

genre · Comedy, Drama

language · English, with African American dialects

time and place written · Developed from 1983–1987; United States

date of first publication · June, 1986

publisher · Plume, an imprint of Dutton Signet, a division of Penguin Books USA

narrator · The play does not have a narrator but the stage directions do lend an omniscient voice at times

point of view · not applicable (drama)

tone · Loosely autobiographical; emphasizes links between the aftermaths of slavery as well as legalized discrimination and African American lives during the 1950's

tense · not applicable (drama)

settings (times) · 1957, later, 1965

setting (place) · The dirt-yard and porch of the Maxson family's house in Pittsburgh, PA

protagonists · Troy Maxson and Cory Maxson

major conflict · Troy and Cory's opposing views on how Cory should spend his future deteriorates after Troy prohibits Cory from playing football and going to college. Their relationship disintegrates further when Troy reveals he has been cheating on Cory's mother with another woman and gotten her pregnant and signed papers permitting Cory's Uncle Gabe to be committed to a mental hospital while Troy lives in a house paid for by Gabe's money.

rising actions · Troy reveals his affair with Alberta to his wife, Rose; Rose reprimands Troy; Troy viciously grabs Rose's arm and will not let go; Cory surprises Troy, attacking him from behind; Cory and Troy fight; Troy wins the fight and warns Cory that he has one more strike to spend

climax · Rose tells Troy that Alberta died having his baby.

falling action · In Act Two, scene four: Troy picks a fight with Cory; Cory displays his disgust for Troy's betraying behavior towards Rose, Gabe, and Cory; Troy and Cory fight with a baseball bat; Troy wins and kicks Cory out of their house

themes · Coming of age within the cycle of damaged black manhood; interpreting and inheriting history; the choice between pragmatism and illusions as survival mechanisms

motifs · Death and baseball; seeds and growth; blues

symbols · Trains; fences; the devil

foreshadowing · In Act One, scene one, Troy says without humility, "Death ain't nothing," but he eventually dies before the play ends. In Act One, scene two, Gabriel talks in songs and strange stories about his friendship with St. Peter. But sometimes his words appear to foreshadow Troy's demise. Gabe sings to Troy, "Better get ready for the judgment." In Act One, scene one, Bono inquires about Troy's relationship with a woman names Alberta. Troy denies his affair with Alberta, but Bono says he has seen Troy buying her drinks and walking near her house when he says he's at the bar, Taylor's. Bono's questioning foreshadows Troy's inevitable inability to hide his secret.

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