Fences no longer welcome within the fence. While

Fences is the title to
August Wilson’s play, but by the time you finish reading the play, you see that
it has many different meanings. On the surface, it seems that the play’s title
comes from Troy and Cory building a fence. Throughout the play, we see the
fence gradually reaches completion. But, the fence being built here is much
more than just a fence around the yard. It’s a complex symbol that sums up the
whole play. The fence is also symbolic of the things Troy wants to keep out, the
things he separates himself from. This symbolism is obvious in the last dialogue
we get between Troy and Cory. Cory says, “Tell Mama I’ll be back for my
things. Troy replies, “They’ll be on the other side of that fence.”
(190) In this exchange, Troy clearly establishes the fence as a separation
between him and his son, but in the aspect of an actual, physical barrier that
separates them. Troy believes that by winning the fight with Cory, that he’s
still the alpha male. The fence now marks the boundaries of Troy’s territory;
he is still the king of the castle, and his son is no longer welcome within the
fence. While the fence is now firmly established as a literal barrier between
the two, it is also representing the emotional barrier that Troy has placed between
them.

Just like real fences,
metaphorical fences are used to keep people and things out. Fences are built
for a specific reason on both counts. Real fences are built when privacy is
needed, or there are people that are not wanted around. The same can be said about
those fences that are built metaphorically. They are built because we want to
keep someone out, or get “privacy” in our lives. Sometimes we inadvertently
build these fences, through broken relationships or failed friendships. These
can be built from the ground up intentionally, as it seems Troy did with his
son Cory.

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            Some fences are built out of raw emotion, we see this in
the play with Troy. After Troy learns that Alberta has died in childbirth, he
uses the fence metaphorically to put a barrier between himself and Death. Troy
says, “All right . . . 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.” (184) Even though Troy realizes that he’ll eventually
lose his battle with Death. We see that the fence talked about here symbolizes
that Troy’s not going down without a fight. Troy declares that he’ll fight
death up to his last breath. With the completion of the fence after this
declaration, it could be argued that Troy was trying to protect his family.
Sometimes the fences built emotionally are the most powerful ones.

            Just like real fences, metaphorical fences can be taken
down. Sometimes it takes years of weathering, but sometimes they can be taken
down immediately. In the play, after Troy’s death, Cory returns home to be with
the family. Cory tells Rose that he is not going to Troy’s funeral. Cory has
built up a metaphorical fence in his head towards Troy. After the exchange with
Rose, Cory is seen out on the porch with Raynell. There share the song about
Blue, after they sing Cory says to Raynell, “You go in the house and change
them shoes like Mama told you so we can go to Papa’s funeral.” (196) It seems
that in the end Cory has torn down his fence and is going to Troy’s funeral.
Fences can be taken down, sometimes all it takes is forgiveness or remembering
what happened to make us put up a fence. In those moments we realize that the
fence is not needed, and was probably not needed to begin with.