Summary: Symbolism and Figurative Language In The Play

Categories: Fences

Within the play, Fences, the reader follows the life of Troy as he fights through problems any African-American would be facing in the 1950s. The play is placed during the period of Civil Rights in which there was still a large differentiation between races due to the concept of segregation. Many people hold others accountable for their life situations which results in a variety of feelings in each individual. In the play, Fences, August Wilson utilizes symbolism and figurative language to describe one’s struggles, particularly in the life of the main character.

Troy is an African-American husband and father who has a passion for baseball. He did not fulfill his dream as a Major League Baseball player due to his skin color which causes many problems in his life. Troy meets his best friend, Bono, in jail where he spends 15 years for killing someone while trying to rob them. After getting out, Troy married Rose and they have a son together named Cory.

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Cory loves football; however, Troy does not want the same life he has for his son, so this causes problems in their relationship. Troy has another son, Lyons, who only comes around when he needs money. Gabriel, Troy’s brother, returns from World War II severely wounded. Troy cheats on Rose with Alberta; they have a kid together named Raynell. Alberta dies while having the baby, so Rose raises Raynell like her child.

Wilson includes many symbols in this play. The most evident symbol is the fence; it represents the boundary of death.

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“Alright . . . Mr. Death. See now . . . I’m gonna tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna take and build me a fence around this yard. See? I’m gonna build me a fence around what belongs to me. And then I want you to stay on the other side. See? You stay over there until you’re ready for me”. Troy is telling death that it has to stay on the other side until it is his time to go. Troy does not want to witness the death of anyone he cares about. Rose requests that Troy and Cory build a fence around their property, but they do not understand why. The fence can also symbolize Rose’s love for her family. Bono says, “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”. Bono is telling Troy and Cory that Rose is trying to keep the people she loves most close to her.

Another symbol is baseball. Troy relates his relationship with Cory to the three strikes in baseball. The first strike is mentioned when Cory lies to him about keeping his job at the A&P. “See, you in the batter’s box now. You swung and you missed. That’s strike one. Don’t you strike out!” . Cory receives strike two when he hits Troy for hurting Rose. “That’s strike two. You stay away from around me, boy. Don’t you strike out! You living with a full count” . The final strike happens when Troy and Cory fight over the bat where Troy wins and tells Cory “Go on and get away from around my house” . All of Cory’s strikes in his life ultimately lead to the strikeout of him moving away from home; this argument is probably Troy’s largest mistake throughout the entire play. His relationship with his youngest son is ruined by the feelings of injustice from his baseball years. Baseball plays a major role in Troy’s life which explains why he often uses baseball terminology to express his conflicts. Wilson also uses baseball as a way to explain Troy’s relationship with Alberta. Troy uses baseball terminology when telling Rose of his affair with Alberta. He tells Rose, “I just might be able to steal second.” “I stood on first base for eighteen years and I thought . . . go on for it!”. Although his affair with Alberta is a serious matter to Rose, Troy continues to use terms of baseball due to its significance in his life. This sport plays a major role in the play, for it is the cause of much of Troy’s bitterness.

In addition to symbolism, August Wilson uses figurative language such as metaphors and personification. A metaphor is used to describe death. Troy says, “Death ain’t nothing but a fastball on the outside corner. And you know what I’ll do to that! Lookee here, Bono . . . am I lying? You get one of them fastballs, about waist high, over the outside corner of the plate where you can get the meat of the bat on it . . . and good god! You can kiss it goodbye” . Troy is telling the reader he is not scared of death; if death comes for him, he will hit a grand slam. Death is also personified in the play. At the beginning of the play, Troy says, “I say . . . What you want, Mr, Death?”. Troy calls death a mister making it a person. “Death standing there staring at me . . . carrying that sickle in his hand. Finally he say, ‘You want bound over for another year?’”. “We wrestled for three days and three nights”. Troy treats death as a person in hopes he can beat it.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Summary: Symbolism and Figurative Language In The Play. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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