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Fences

August Wilson

Contents

Act Two: Scene Three

Summary

Troy brings home his motherless baby, Raynell. He sits on the porch singing a blues song about a man begging a train engineer to let him ride the train in hiding, for free. Rose decides that the baby is innocent and shouldn't be blamed for Troy's sins, saying, "you can't visit the sins of the father upon the child this child got a mother, but you're a womanless man." She takes in Troy's baby as her own child, but refuses to honor her partnership with Troy.

Analysis

Troy finally has no choice but to bear his burden in hand. He comes home to Rose with his baby, Raynell, not knowing if she will take him in as her husband again. Troy could be homeless, without a family except the baby, with nowhere to care for the baby or keep her from the elements if Rose rejects him once and for all. Instead of knocking on the front door to find out his standing with Rose, Troy cradles his baby on the front porch and sings. The baby is the only person left in Troy's world who will listen to Troy with an open mind. The porch used to be an arena for Troy's viewpoints and Troy's vision of the world. Now all Troy may have left in the world is his baby who does not know any better but to listen to him and depend on his love.

The lyrics of Troy's train song mimic his predicament with Rose and Raynell. He is homeless unless Rose takes pity on him and takes him in which, after his deceit of her trust, would also be an act of granting a free ride to a man who has more than spent his chances for forgiveness.

Moreover, Wilson's choice in writing Troy a song based on an experience with a train follows a literary tradition in African American literature and an oral tradition in African American spirituals of associating trains with moments of significant life changing experiences. Specifically, trains have come to represent a crossroads in a person's life in the African American tradition. Frequently, these references to trains also have a religious connotation. In African American spirituals, trains often meant a ride to heaven and a ticket away from the troubles of life on earth. Wilson acknowledges his antecedents in fiction and song with Troy's lyrical plea.

Rose also makes a religious reference with her justification for accepting Raynell as her own child. She attributes her reasoning to her understanding that Raynell is innocent even though she was born out of a sinful partnership. Rose rejects Troy as her partner because she takes seriously the Biblical commandment that decrees, "Thou Shalt Not Sin," but finds forgiveness for the child born to her sinful husband because of her belief that "when the sins of our fathers visit us/we don't have to play host/we can banish them with forgiveness/as God in his largeness and laws." To Rose, it is a godly act to bring Raynell into her home and a blessing to behold in the midst of her pain.

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by MariaDPettiford, August 15, 2017

Fences is a 1985 play by American playwright August Wilson. Set in the 1950s, it is the sixth in Wilson's ten-part "Pittsburgh Cycle". I would even read it again if I had time for this. Recommend!

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