Commentary on “Fences” By Playwright August Wilson

August Wilson dramatically illustrates the passage on page 69 and 70 of the play “Fences”. Before the passage, Troy breaks the news to his wife, Rose, that he has been having an affair with another woman and that he is having a baby. After the passage, Rose, who feels much anger and resentment towards Troy, tells him how she gave him everything she had and that she took all her feelings, hopes, and dreams and “buried them inside [him]” (2:1:71). During the passage, Troy attempts to explain and justify the motives behind his adulterous actions to Rose. He tells Rose how great a wife she has been to him, then tells her that Alberta, the woman he’s cheating with, makes him happy and relieved. He states that he tried his whole life to live decent but this “gal firmed up [his] backbone” and made him “steal second” (2:1:71). In this passage, Troy essentially confirms that he’s tired of the life he has been trapped in for eighteen years. Wilson develops characters, theme, and tone through various literary elements.

In the beginning of this scene, an apathetic, pitiful, and disappointing tone becomes perceivable through diction. Wilson elaborates this tone through the contrast of Troy’s selfishness and Rose’s altruism. Troy’s self-centeredness becomes vivid through the repetitive usage of “I”. He constantly proclaims that “[he] can sit up in her house” and “[he] can laugh out loud” and “[he] can’t give that up” (2:1:69). Also, Troy’s hypocrisy functions to form an ironic effect. Troy relays to Rose that “a man couldn’t ask for….a better wife than [her]” (1:2:68). Yet at the same time he refuses to give up his relationship with Alberta, which distinctly portrays Troy’s dissatisfaction with his eighteen years of marriage. During this instance, Troy goes back on his own principles of duty, responsibility, and righteousness and instead, becomes blind with lust and pride. The verbal irony of this passage characterizes Troy as hypocritical, fraudulent, and treacherous and underscores the overall tone of discontentment.

The passage shifts towards Troy during his monologue which serves as his justification for his irresponsible actions. Wilson implements the motif of baseball through Troy’s character to metaphorically elucidate the reasoning of Troy’s infidelity. Troy first utilizes baseball to discuss how life racially oppresses him, and presents him with “two strikes…before [he comes] to the plate” (2:1:69). Next, Troy explains that when he had himself a family and a decent job he was “safe on first base” (2:1:69) because he had escaped his past misfortunes. Finally, Troy eventually became dissatisfied and was “looking for one of them boys to knock [him] in to home” (2:1:70). This use of baseball as a metaphor becomes so intense that it becomes a symbol of Troy’s pride and defeat. Baseball symbolizes Troy’s demise and egotism as a result of the betrayal to his family. Furthermore the symbolism of Troy and baseball establish a contrary theme that those who live a devout, true, and selfless life will be more fulfilled. However, Rose is most likely the only character in the play that fully embodies and represents this theme.

The scene then shifts and directs towards Rose because at this point she stops listening to Troy and takes a stand, as he continues to talk about himself. Rose rejects all his excuses by declaring that “he should have stayed in [her] bed” (2:1:70). The language Wilson creates for Rose characterizes her as intelligent, straightforward, and strong-hearted because she fiercely declares that they are talking about “going off to lay in bed with another woman” and not baseball. Also, punctuation such as the etcetera functions to intensify the language by creating dramatic pauses. Additionally, Troy’s character once again reiterates itself as self-absorbed, ignorant, and egotistical for he protests of “standing in the same place for eighteen years” (2:1:70) without regard or consideration to his wife who has been standing by him the entire time.

In conclusion, Wilson utilizes numerous literary devices to develop theme, tone, and character. Symbolism displays the theme that those who “live a clean…hard…useful life” will achieve ultimate happiness. Unfortunately, Troy succumbs to the temptations of lust and instant gratification which leaves him with an empty heart and a distant family. He becomes unable to “taste nothing no more” (2:3:89). August Wilson uses language to express the importance of God’s gifts to people.

Sources: “Fences” August Wilson