Artboard Created with Sketch. Close Search Dialog
! Error Created with Sketch.

Fences

Summary Act One: Scene One
Summary Act One: Scene One

Brownie's embarrassment over possessing a watermelon is a direct reference to racist stereotypical images of African Americans. Variety plays that portrayed stereotypical blacks played by white men in blackface, called minstrel shows, were the most popular form of American entertainment for over two hundred years. In caricature drawings and minstrel shows, African Americans were frequently depicted as lazy, child-like people who enjoyed nothing more than eating watermelons all day or stealing watermelons for pleasure. Troy and Bono think Brownie's embarrassment over having a watermelon was foolish on two levels. They think this because Brownie did a bad job of concealing the watermelon that was perfectly visible to everyone. The second reason is not conscious to Troy and Bono but to the playwright. Wilson is conscious that minstrel characters institutionalized the tradition of stereotypical black characters in American entertainment. Wilson turns this tradition on its head by writing his own realized characters in such a way that they indirectly refer to the stereotyping of blacks very early in the play thereby sending a signal to the audience that this play's project is in part to present characters who are three-dimensional. Troy and Bono are not ashamed to be black and have confident enough self-images that they would not be embarrassed to be seen with a stereotypical object like Brownie is with his watermelon. Too early to have the political-mindedness of Wilson characters inspired by the black pride movement, Bono and Troy nevertheless foreshadow issues that will emerge in the shaping of future African American identities.

Structurally, this first scene establishes patterns in the play to come. Bono and Troy's friendship is closest in this first scene and their language borrows words from each other more frequently in these first conversations. This is a technique playwrights have used for centuries to create the feeling that the characters are harmonious. Bono and Troy frequently use the word "nigger" as an endearing term, a common use of the word by African Americans who, like homosexuals who now embrace the term, "queer" to describe themselves, reverse an originally derogatory word used by a majority to denigrate a group into a word that the oppressed group uses for themselves with a positive connotation, lessening the power of its insult.

Bono and Troy's dialogue also foreshadows several plot elements. Concerned for Troy's family life, Bono inquires about Troy's relationship with a woman named Alberta. This piece of information foreshadows the inevitability that Troy will reveal his secret because Bono has been watching him closely and Troy is not covert at his sneaking around. Another conflict is planted in Act One, scene one when Rose informs Bono and Troy about the recruiter who wants to see Troy and Rose's son, Cory play football.

Setting the scene on Friday and returning to two more Fridays in following scenes allows Wilson to portray change. Lyons' entrance and Troy's complaint about his money borrowing will later provide laughs when Lyons shows up again. It will also establish Lyons as a trust-worthy, sympathetic character when Lyons makes good on his loan because he proves much more reliable than Troy's perception of Lyons in this first scene. When Bono and Troy no longer drink and laugh together on a future payday, we notice how far away from each other they've come since we first met them in the first scene that emphasizes the extent of the damage Troy's decisions have caused.