Fences

by: August Wilson

Marriage

Quotes Marriage
ROSE: Why, Troy? After all these years to come dragging this in to me now. It don’t make no sense at your age. I could have expected this ten or fifteen years ago, but not now. . . . I done tried to be everything a wife should be. Everything a wife could be. Been married eighteen years[.]

After Troy confesses to Rose that he impregnated another woman, she responds with confusion and disbelief. Rose understands human nature, so she would not have been surprised if he had cheated when he was younger—he had many admirers before they married. However, after eighteen years of marriage, Rose assumed that that danger was past. She knows she has been a good wife, which includes always being sexually available. Rose felt the marriage was increasingly secure over time. But what to Rose felt like security felt to Troy like stasis, in both marriage and life in general. In short, Troy is having a midlife crisis.

ROSE: I gave everything I had to try and erase the doubt that you wasn’t the finest man in the world. And wherever you was going . . . I wanted to be there with you. Because you was my husband. Cause that’s the only way I was gonna survive as your wife.

After Troy explains that he had an affair because he had been “standing in the same place for eighteen years” and felt disappointed in his life, Rose responds. Rose seems unmoved by his reasoning: She has been with him all of those years, actively helping and supporting him and working within herself to keep the marriage alive despite recognizing Troy’s flaws and limitations. Troy frequently enumerates all the work he does for his family, but now Rose needs him to know: “You take . . . and don’t even know nobody’s giving!” Their marriage never recovers: Rose is done burying herself inside Troy.

ROSE: I married your daddy and settled down to cooking his supper and keeping clean sheets on the bed. When your daddy walked through the house he was so big he filled it up. That was my first mistake. Not to make him leave some room for me. . . . But at that time I wanted that.

After Troy’s death, Rose talks to her son, Cory, about their marriage. Cory believes that Troy mistreated Rose as well as himself. But Rose refuses to blame Troy for their marriage’s flaws. Although Troy’s wants and needs dominated their marriage and Cory’s upbringing, Rose admits that she was happy to be the submissive wife at first. She later realized that she had left herself vulnerable to being taken for granted. Had she insisted on a more equal partnership from the beginning, she might have had a happier marriage in the long run. But she owns that initial decision.