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Fences

August Wilson

Act One: Scene Three

Act One: Scene Two

Act One: Scene Four

Summary

Cory comes home from football practice on Saturday afternoon. Rose tells him that Troy was upset about Cory leaving the house without doing his chores or helping him with the fence. Cory tells Rose that every Saturday Troy says he needs his help with the fence but he never ends up working on it. Instead, he says he goes to the bar, Taylor's. Cory goes inside to eat lunch and do his chores. Troy comes home, supposedly from Taylor's, but can't remember the score of the game. He unsuccessfully flirts with Rose, and then yells at Cory to come outside and help him with the fence. Troy reprimands Cory for going to football practice instead of doing his chores.

Cory and Troy work on the fence. Cory asks Troy if they can buy a television. Troy would rather buy a new roof because it would insure their future security. Cory thinks it would be fun to watch the World Series on TV. It would cost two hundred dollars. Troy makes a deal with Cory that if Cory comes up with one hundred dollars, Troy will match him with the other half and they will buy the television together. Troy and Cory have a friendly argument about the status of black players in the Major Leagues. Troy will not admit that Hank Aaron is changing the game and that Roberto Clemente's coaches give him plenty of chances to bat. Troy finds weakly argued excuses to deny that baseball is treating black players fairly and changing for the better. Troy disappoints Cory by not agreeing to sign the permission papers for Cory to play college football. A coach is coming from North Carolina to recruit Cory, but even with the knowledge of how far the coach is traveling to see his son, Troy will not change his mind. Troy wants Cory to work at the A&P supermarket instead of going to football practice. Cory breaks the news to Troy that he has already given away his job at the A&P during the football season. Mr. Stawicki, Cory's boss, is keeping Cory's job for when the season ends. Cory begs Troy to change his mind, but Troy refuses and demands Cory get his job back.

Cory asks Troy why he never liked Cory. Troy responds by explaining his belief that his role as a father is to provide shelter and food and the gift of life to a son and nothing more. Troy demands that Cory speak to him respectfully with the word "sir," and gives Cory the third degree, making Cory treat him with a military-like respect. Rose asks Troy why he will not let Cory play football when Cory is trying to follow in his father's footsteps. Troy explains that when Cory was born, he decided he would not allow Cory to pursue sports in order to spare Cory from a fate like his own. Rose tries to get Troy to admit that he was too old to play for the Major Leagues and that times have changed since the years Troy was prohibited from the Major Leagues because of the color of his skin. Troy will not agree with Rose. He tells Rose that he is trying to give everything he has to his family and he can't change or give anything else but his hard work and responsibility. Troy feels that his financial support is more than enough.

Analysis

Troy and Cory's father-son relationship succumbs to its first major blow while working together on Rose's fence. The blow to their relationship is not yet a physical affront, but an irreconcilable difference. Cory has taken care of insuring his job at the A&P for after football season and gets good grades in school, but Troy does not acknowledge these responsible acts. Instead, Troy only sees the ways Cory does not live up to Troy's vision of how Cory should live his life. Troy's hypocrisy becomes evident to Cory over the course of his conversation with Troy as they build the fence.

The beginning of their talk displays a friendly competition aspect of their relationship. Troy and Cory argue about the purchasing of a television versus a new roof in good spirits. Troy is typically stubborn and takes the pragmatic view on the television issue, again emphasizing his inability to empathize with anyone else's lofty dreams but his own. However, in a moment of compassion, Troy relents and offers Cory a fair deal. In this moment, Troy is his most laudable. Cory's persistent, logical and persuasive argument for a television affects Troy. It is notable that Troy does not go head over heels and offer to buy Cory the television, but his proposal is fair and balanced. By offering to pay half if Cory can come up with half of the money, Troy emphasizes the kind of responsibility-instilling parenting he believes in that encourages Cory's work ethic, while supporting his son in realizing a dream. On the flip side, when their argument hits closer to home with the topic of sports, Troy transforms his fair and supportive outlook into an irrational, hurtful one.

Troy and Cory's conversation solidifies their positions as two men separated by a generation but sharing a common passion. Cory showed his persistence in proving to Troy that buying a television would be a good investment and goes on further to attempt to convince Troy that baseball, and thus, the world has changed since Troy was a ball player. With the television argument, Troy had substantial, though sometime weak arguments for Cory. He had a good point that their roof needs fixing, though he did not seem to think of the roof as a financial priority until Cory brought up the idea of buying a TV. In Troy's rebuttals against Cory about the change in Major League sports, however, his answers to Cory's points are irrational and lack substance, or even warp the truth for his own benefit. Troy claims Roberto Clemente sits on the bench too much but Cory challenges this by saying he has plenty of opportunities. Troy thinks Clemente and Aaron and other colored ballplayers are on the team as tokens, but are not actually played. Cory refutes this idea as well. When Cory brings up the amount of home runs Aaron hit this year, troy deflates Aaron's success by insisting that hitting homeruns is merely Aaron's responsibility. Troy boasts about his ability to play baseball as well as the players Cory adores. Then, when Cory mentions Sandy Koufax's pitching, Troy's denial of Cory's proof that times have changed reaches a pinnacle of poor reasoning. Troy simply negates Koufax's existence in his mind by saying, "I ain't thinking of no Sandy Koufax."

Cory sees the present for what it is, a changing, gradually more accepting place for talented blacks like himself, but Troy can only see the present as he experienced his hardest disappointments in the past. Troy's unwillingness to change his perceptions with the time, results in his stubborn and selfish decision to refuse to see the college recruiter coming to ask for Troy's permission to recruit Cory for college football. Troy and Cory's incompatible perspectives and conflicting interpretation of a changing history comprise their major differences. Cory gets a startlingly sour taste of Troy's irrational hypocrisy. Troy's hypocrisy favors his own warped vision of the world as one he can shape for his own protection at the expense of holding back a promising future for his son, who he believes he is also protecting, but instead, actually holds back.

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