Fences

by: August Wilson

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

"That's the way that goes."

The last line of the play, spoken by Gabriel, concludes the story on a half note. The ending feels like a major and minor chord, simultaneously. After a disappointing attempt to open the heavens for Troy with his broken trumpet, Gabriel makes up another way to open the heavens. He dances, refuses help or comfort, and cries out. In this moment, Gabriel represents the African American tradition of improvisation. Despite overwhelming sadness, the loss of his brother, his placement in an asylum and his trumpet's inability to help him believe, Gabriel creates a new way of opening the gates of heavens by using methods rooted in African traditions. The dance and cry Wilson describes for Gabriel to perform, imply a return to a time when blacks were free of the limitations brought on by slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow laws. Gabriel, in his dance and cry, reminds us that the possibility exists to create beauty and joy out of pain and suffering. He reflects the music, religion, dancing and other cultural traditions that African Americans ingeniously invented within the bonds of slavery to survive and to keep hopeful. Gabriel's comment after his improvised dance and cry is a bit of advice to Raynell, the youngest Maxson. Gabe lost part of his mind in battle while fighting for a country that treated blacks at the time like second-class citizens. With these words, he tells Raynell that life is full of disappointment, but one can improvise and change an obstacle into a creative impulse for change. It doesn't surprise Gabriel that at a time as meaningful as this, his first chance to become the angel of Gabriel that he imagines himself to be, something will go wrong, and he has to pick up the pieces and carry on with a different approach. This line and the action before it combines to form a metaphor of Wilson's view on African American survival in America, physicalized and vocalized on stage, usually to a powerful effect.