ROSE: Troy lying. We got that furniture from Mr. Glickman. He ain’t paying no ten dollars a month to nobody. . . . It ought to matter. You going around talking about having truck with the devil. . . . God’s the one you gonna have to answer to. He’s the one gonna be at the Judgment.
Rose reacts to Troy entertaining his friend by saying he pays the devil ten dollars a month for his furniture and must do so forever. Troy’s point is that paying interest means overpaying and that buying on credit is stupid, but Rose ignores Troy’s intention. As a religious woman, she dislikes the suggestion of Troy having dealings with the devil, even in a story. Troy tells stories to cut loose. Rose has no such outlet.
ROSE: Ain’t no sense you blaming yourself for nothing. Gabe wasn’t in no condition to manage that money. You done what was right by him. Can’t nobody say you ain’t done what was right by them. Look how long you took care of him . . . till he wanted to have his own place and moved over there with Miss Pearl.
Troy sometimes bemoans the fact that he could only afford the family home because his brother Gabriel lived with them and contributed money he received for a war injury. Here, Rose bucks up her husband. However, when she becomes angry with Troy later, she accuses him of taking Gabriel’s money on purpose. At this point in the play, Rose considers supporting her husband her top priority, but her words do not necessarily reflect her beliefs.
ROSE: Troy, I ain’t going through that with you no more. He’s over there cause he want to have his own place. He can come and go as he please . . . Now, that’s the last I wanna hear about that. I don’t wanna hear nothing else about Gabe and Miss Pearl . . . And next week . . . when that recruiter come from that school . . . I want you to sign that paper and go on and let Cory play football. Then that’ll be the last I have to hear about that.
Rose expresses her hopes and expectations on two issues over which she and her husband disagree: his brother’s decision to move out of their house, which annoys Troy, and their son Cory’s desire to play college football, which Troy opposes. Rose states her expectations reasonably but firmly, but at least in the case of Cory, Troy completely ignores her wishes and Cory’s. She might as well not have said anything.
BONO: I remember when you met Rose. When you was hitting them baseball out the park. A lot of them old gals was after you then. You had the pick of the litter. When you picked Rose, I was happy for you. That was the first time I knew you had any sense. I said . . . that man Troy knows what he’s doing[.]
Jim Bono, Troy’s best friend, looks up to Troy in part because he had the good sense to choose Rose. Bono recognizes Rose’s superiority to most women. He brings up this memory now because he knows Troy is having an affair. Although Troy still loves Rose, after eighteen years of marriage, he takes her for granted. Bono is trying to restore the reverence Troy had for Rose in their early years together.
ROSE: You know I ain’t never wanted no half nothing in my family. My whole family is half. Everybody got different fathers and mothers . . . my two sisters and my brother. Can’t hardly tell who’s who. Can’t never sit down and talk about Papa and Mama. It’s your papa and your mama and my papa and my mama. . . . I ain’t never wanted that for none of my children.
Rose reacts to learning that Troy is going to have a baby with Alberta. In addition to feeling betrayed, Rose seems disappointed for another reason: She had the ambition and intent to live a more conventionally proper life than her family’s previous generation. She and her siblings are each related by only one parent. Rose feels proud to have married only once. By giving his son, Cory, a half-sibling, Troy lowers the family’s class status.
ROSE: I been standing with you! I been right here with you, Troy. I got a life too. I gave eighteen years of my life to stand in the same spot with you. Don’t you think I ever wanted other things? Don’t you think I had dreams and hopes? . . . Don’t you think it ever crossed my mind to want to know other men? That I wanted to lay up somewhere and forget about my responsibilities? That I wanted someone to make me laugh so I could feel good? . . . But I held on to you, Troy. I took all my feelings, my wants and needs, my dreams . . . and I buried them inside you.
After Troy explains that he had an affair because he feels stuck at this point in his life, Rose fires back at him, forcing him to look at their life through her eyes for a moment. Rose feels insulted by this attempt at justification: If he is stuck, then so is she. But instead of looking outside the marriage for fulfillment, she consciously committed herself to keeping the marriage healthy, mostly by subsuming herself to Troy’s needs. Troy took Rose’s commitment to him for granted. The marriage never recovers after this moment.
ROSE: Okay, Troy . . . you’re right. I’ll take care of your baby for you . . . cause . . . like you say . . . she’s innocent . . . and you can’t visit the sins of the father upon the child. A motherless child has got a hard time. . . . From right now . . . this child got a mother. But you a womanless man.
Alberta, Troy’s mistress, has died in childbirth, leaving a daughter. Troy asks Rose to “help me take care of her,” which Rose correctly interprets as “take care of my baby for me.” Despite her feelings of hurt and anger, Rose accepts the task. However, Rose taking in the baby doesn’t equate to her forgiving Troy. Rather, her willingness to ignore the baby’s origins and love the child as her own, which she successfully does, shows a more forgiving nature than many others might have in her place.
ROSE: Boy, hush your mouth. That’s your daddy you talking about. I don’t want to hear that kind of talk this morning. I done raised you to come to this? You standing there all healthy and grown talking about you ain’t going to your daddy’s funeral? . . . I don’t want to hear it, Cory. You just get that thought out of your head.
Cory has returned for his father’s funeral but balks at attending, having not forgiven Troy for kicking him out of the house and their many other disagreements. Here, Rose reprimands Cory for such an attitude and shares that she considers Cory’s attitude childish. She insists that Cory show the respect due to his father simply for being his father; whether they got along is irrelevant now that he’s gone. As an adult, Cory is expected to do the correct thing, and that is to attend.
ROSE: When I first met your daddy . . . I thought, Rose Lee, here is a man that you can open yourself up to and be filled to bursting. Here is a man that can fill all those empty spaces you been tipping around the edges of. One of them empty spaces was being somebody’s mother.
Rose tells Cory that a big part of the reason she married Troy was because she thought he would make good babies. Although Cory and his father did not get along, Rose insists that they are alike, and here she implies that she approves of the resemblance. She specifically picked Troy to father her child, so she understands that despite his faults, Troy had value. Although imperfect in many ways, Troy provided what she was looking for, and in Cory she is happy to see Troy.
ROSE: I wanted a house that I could sing in. And that’s what your daddy gave me. I didn’t know to keep up his strength I had to give up little pieces of mine. I did that. I took on his life as mine and mixed up the pieces so that you couldn’t hardly tell which was which any more. It was my choice. It was my life and I didn’t have to live it like that. But that was what life offered me in the way of being a woman and I took it. I grabbed hold of it with both hands.
Rose explains to Cory that her marriage had been her choice. She acknowledges that her choices “in the way of being a woman” were limited but insists that she happily subsumed herself in Troy. Although not demanding Troy’s respect may have eventually led him to have an affair, Rose owns the choice rather than blaming things on Troy or on sexism. By taking responsibility for her life, Rose refuses to be a victim.