Fences

by: August Wilson

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

"Some people build fences to keep people out and other people build fences to keep people in. Rose wants to hold on to you all. She loves you."

In the first scene of Act Two, Bono explains to Cory and Troy why Rose wants a fence built around their dirt yard. Neither Cory nor Troy understands why Rose insists that they complete the fence. It takes an outsider of the family, Bono, to observe why this project is so important to Rose, and what the fence represents. The first part of Bono's explanation sheds light on the behavior of his best friend, Troy, standing before him and the second part describes the woman he loves. By this point in the second act, the audience observes as Bono describes the first type of fence builder. Troy keeps people out of his life by negating their decisions, like his first son, Lyons' decision to play jazz. Troy keeps Rose away through betrayal and holds back Cory from a promising future. And Troy's brother, Gabriel, recently chose to leave Troy's house for an ambiguous reason related to Troy that probably relates to the fact that Troy used Gabe's money to buy himself the house. Bono's words provide insight into the Maxson family tensions and warns Troy that Bono disproves of Troy's extramarital affair by emphasizing Rose's love.

The metaphor also refers historically to the American practice of keeping black people bound within the fences of slavery. Bono highlights the dual purpose a fence can have, depending on the way one looks at its purpose. By alluding to slavery, Bono conjures the historical conditions following slavery's abolishment that significantly impacted Troy's fate. Troy's hardships in life directly relate to the conditions in the United States for black men and women living during the aftermath of Reconstruction, and the height of Jim Crow segregation. Bono expresses compassion with this reading of Rose's fence because he condemns Troy for his behavior of shutting out his loved ones but also empathizes with the reason why he reacts violently, in anger and in fear.