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JOURNAL RESPONSES

F e n c e s

A c t O n e , S c e n e O n e

1. Wilson writes that together “with his blackness, [Troy’s] largeness

informs his sensibilities and the choices he has made in his life.” What

aspects of your identity most inform your “sensibilities” and your choices—

your age, your race, your beliefs, your financial background, something

else? Explain your answer in a paragraph.

2. Troy and Bono’s friendship is founded on Bono’s admiration of “Troy’s

honesty, capacity for hard work, and his strength.” What three characteristics

do you most admire and seek in a friend? List the qualities, and

then write a brief explanation for each as to why it is so important to

you.

3. Troy’s first line includes the controversial word “nigger.” Write a one or

two-paragraph letter to August Wilson about how you feel when you see

this word and why you think he decided to include it in Troy’s first

speaking line.

4. Troy has just filed a complaint with his employer concerning the

unequal way whites and “coloreds” are treated in his company, and some

of the other black workers fear that Troy’s boldness will get all of the

blacks fired. Wilson doesn’t include the dialogue Troy has with Mr.

Rand in the play. In a page or so, write the scene between Troy and Mr.

Rand as you think it would have taken place. Before starting the dialogue,

imagine and describe the setting in a sentence or two.

R e s p o n s e J o u r n a l

5. Wilson writes that Rose’s devotion to Troy “stems from her recognition

of the possibilities of her life without him: a succession of abusive men

and their babies, a life of partying and running the streets, the Church,

or aloneness with its attendant pain and frustration.”

In a paragraph, write about what you think your life will be like if you

decide never to get married. Do all of the other options seem negative

like Rose’s?

6. Rose and Troy disagree about what sort of grocery store to patronize.

Troy would rather go to a store where he and his community are respected

and treated well, even if it means having to pay more. Rose thinks it

makes no sense to pay more regardless of how one is treated. Pretend

you are with them and they ask for a third opinion to settle the matter.

In a paragraph, write what you would say, making sure to include which

side (if any) you would take.

7. It is 1957, and Troy is skeptical about how far the “white man” is going

to let Cory go with football. Imagine that Fences is set in our time. Do

you think Troy’s response to Rose’s news would be any different? In a

paragraph, write out what you think Troy’s response might be.

8. Troy holds little respect for highly acclaimed professional baseball players

like Jackie Robinson. He feels that he was a better player, but was

never allowed the chance to prove himself. Write about a situation or

time when you didn’t get the recognition you felt you deserved—and it

seemed as though someone less talented than you did. Do you still feel

resentful about it?

F e n c e s

9. Troy says “Death ain’t nothing but a fastball on the outside corner”. The

story he tells about his struggle with death further illustrates Troy’s sense

of self-confidence—not only could he beat Jackie Robinson, he could

beat Death, too! In contrast, Rose gets upset even talking about death.

Write a short poem about how you feel when you think of “Death”

approaching you. You might start it “Death ain’t” (or isn’t) or “Death

is…”

10. Lyons says, “I don’t wanna be carrying nobody’s rubbish.” Do you think

most people end up with jobs they like? Do you think that you will end

up with a job you like? Explain your answer.

11. Lyons defends himself against his father’s accusations that he is lazy by

stating, “I know I got to eat. But I got to live too. I need something that

gonna help me get out of the bed in the morning. Make me feel like I

belong in the world.”

Lyons’s statement reflects a basic moral dilemma: the importance of

financial security versus the importance of happiness. Assume that you

are faced with two career choices. Career “A” features a steady, secure

income but involves doing work that does not interest you. Career “B”

interests you, but doesn’t offer a steady, secure income. Make a pro/con

list for both career options and decide which you would choose. Does

your choice reflect the work ethic of Troy or of Lyons?

R e s p o n s e J o u r n a l

A c t O n e , S c e n e Two

12. Do you agree with Troy that lotteries take advantage of the poor?

Pretend that your state is in the middle of a heated debate on whether to

have or dispense with a lottery. A local newspaper has invited people to

send in letters expressing their opinions on the subject. Write such a

letter, making sure to include both your opinion and the reasoning

behind it.

13. Although he doesn’t mention it, Rose intuitively senses that Troy is worried

about what happened at work yesterday. In a paragraph or two,

describe a time when you were able to sense what someone was thinking

even though he or she didn’t speak of it directly. How could you tell

what was really on that person’s mind?

14. If it weren’t for the money Gabe got from the government for his war

wound, Troy would not have been able to buy a house. It upsets Troy to

realize that he is fifty-three and wouldn’t have a home if not for that

money. Imagine that, instead of going to a listen to a ball game, Troy

decides to write a journal entry addressing these circumstances at this

end of this scene. As Troy, write the entry.

 

F e n c e s

A c t O n e , S c e n e T h r e e

15. Troy is angry with Cory for having gone to football practice before doing

his chores, yet Troy himself has avoided working on the fence for weeks.

Does this seem unfair to you, or perfectly in keeping with a parent’s

rights? Explain your answer.

16. As Troy and Cory work on fencing the yard, they argue over the sensibility

of buying a television. Fast-forward this scene to today. What luxury

item do you think Cory would be asking for now? As Cory, write your

father a letter convincing him to buy this item for the family. Consider

what you know of Troy and use arguments that you think would appeal

to him in particular.

17. Troy is reluctant to buy things on credit. How do you feel about buying

things you don’t yet have the money for? Are credit cards liberating in

that they don’t limit us to what we can afford at a given moment—or are

they a trap? Explain your answer.

18. Cory recognizes that his father’s bitterness may be responsible for Troy’s

unreasonable assessments of major league players’ talents. Think of the

time when you first realized that an adult in your life was capable of

mistakes and faulty reasoning just like children are. Did the realization

bring you closer together or build a fence between you? Write a paragraph

describing the incident and your feelings about it both then and

now.

 

R e s p o n s e J o u r n a l

19. When Troy insists that Cory take back his after-school job instead of

playing football, Cory knows that a potential college scholarship is at

stake. What do you think motivates Troy to deny his son this chance?

Try to consider Troy’s perspective as you respond.

20. Troy thinks it is unreasonable for Cory to expect Troy to like him. What

do you think? Assuming they are good providers, is it important for

parents to also like their children? Do you feel as though your parents

“should” like you simply because you are their child? Explain your

answer.

21. Troy refuses to admit that the main reason he couldn’t play Major League

ball is that he was too old when the opportunity presented itself—if he

could do so, he’d be a very different man. As Troy, write a diary entry in

which you admit the truth to yourself and explore why it has been so

difficult for you to do so. Include whether or not you will tell Rose or

Cory what you know or if it is important to you to continue acting as

though it was only prejudice that kept you out of pro ball.

22. Rose tells Troy that times have changed since Troy was Cory’s age.

Assume that you will at some point have a child. How do you think

times will have changed between now and the time when your child is

your current age? Make a list of at least five things that you think will

be different by then. For starters, consider possible changes in the civil

rights arena, the environment, politics, and science.

 

F e n c e s

A c t O n e , S c e n e F o u r

23. Although he has no driver’s license, Troy is entirely confident that he

will be able to perform his new job duties. In a paragraph, describe a

time when self-confidence helped you to succeed when your ability

alone may not have.

24. Describe a time when confidence hindered you—in other words, when

you were over-confident and didn’t succeed where you had been sure

you would. What did you learn from your failure? What do you think

Troy will learn if he finds he’s unable to drive a truck?

25. Troy’s father made up the song about Blue and passed it down to Troy,

who in turn taught it to Cory. Pick one thing that you have learned

from a parent that you will be sure to pass on to your own children. It

could be a song, a recipe, a ritual, a way of looking at the world, or

something else. Why is it important to you to keep that thing “alive”

through another generation?

26. When Lyons invites Troy to listen to Lyons’s band play jazz, Troy says, “I

don’t like that Chinese music. All that noise.” Do your parents enjoy

the music you listen to now, or prefer music from their own youths?

Answer and explain why you think they like what they do.

 

R e s p o n s e J o u r n a l

27. When Cory gets “to the point where he wanna disobey me,” Troy says,

“then it’s time for him to move on.” Troy expects Cory to live by his

rules while he lives in Troy’s house. Make a list of five rules for living as

a part of your household that you’d lay down if you had a teenager.

Defend each rule with at least one reason as to why it should be house

policy.

28. Troy learned to play baseball during his time in the penitentiary. Many

people today debate whether prisons should provide recreation for

inmates. Imagine that your state prison warden has proposed a recreation

program that includes a series of sporting events in which inmates

from each of the state’s three prisons compete against one another.

Write to the state prison warden to support or oppose the proposal. Be

sure to include reasons why you feel the way you do about this issue.

29. If, like Troy, you had to leave your family’s house and be out on your

own by the age of fourteen, what would you do? (Assume it would be

impossible to crash at a friend’s or other relative’s house) Would you try

to find a job? Do you think you’d need to steal in order to survive? In

one or two paragraphs, describe what you think your life would be like

for your first month on your own.

30. Troy has spoken to Cory’s coach and had Cory removed from the team.

At this point, what would you do if you were Cory?

 

F e n c e s

A c t Tw o , S c e n e O n e

31. To Troy, Bono says, “I done learned a whole heap of things about life

watching you.” Make a list of at least five things you have learned about

life from your friends. Then list three things you think your friends

have learned from you.

32. Troy says that his heart tells him “right from wrong every time,” and that

it has not told him that having an affair with Alberta is wrong. Pretend

that Troy is on a talk show and has just said this. You raise your hand

and the host brings the microphone to you. Write out what you’d say to

Troy at this point, including whether you agree with his reasoning.

33. Bono says, “Some people build fences to keep people out…and other

people build fences to keep people in.” If you were to build a fence at

this point in your life, which kind would you build? Explain your

answer.

34. Pretend that you are Rose and have just been told not only that your

husband has fathered a child by another woman, but that he wants to

continue seeing her. Taking the time period and your financial situation

into account, write a journal entry exploring your feelings and what

your options might be.

R e s p o n s e J o u r n a l

35. With Alberta, Troy feels as if he is able to laugh and be a different person—

one he likes more than the person he is with Rose and Cory. Write

about a time when you were with someone who made you feel like this.

What about the person made you able to be “different”? Why did you

feel unable to continue to be this “different person” when you were with

other people?

36. Troy has compared facing death and now compares his married and family

life to a baseball game. If you were to compare your life to a game,

what game would it be? Write a poem or descriptive paragraph in which

you compare your life—and how living it feels to you—to a game. Don’t

feel as if your choice must be restricted to sports; board games, party

games, and video games are other possibilities.

37. Imagine that, rather than going inside for watermelon, Gabe witnesses

the entire conversation between Troy and Rose. As Gabe, write a paragraph

recounting and responding to what you have seen. Write in

“Gabe’s language.”

F e n c e s

A c t Tw o , S c e n e Two

38. Troy, who is illiterate, thought he was signing a form that released Gabe

from jail, but actually signed a form to have Gabe committed. Make a

list of at least five problems you would face daily if you were an illiterate

adult in today’s society.

39. When Troy loses Alberta, he becomes determined to build the fence

around his yard to keep Death from sneaking up on him again. How do

you feel as Troy’s world unravels? Do you sympathize with him or think

justice is being served? Explain your answer.

A c t Tw o , S c e n e T h r e e

40. For the first time, Troy has a daughter. From what you know of Troy’s

character and the way Troy has raised and treats his sons, how do you

think he will raise and treat his daughter?

A c t Tw o , S c e n e F o u r

41. As Bono, write a journal entry about what it was like to see Troy for the

first time in a month. Do you still admire him at all? Do you miss him?

Why did you decide to “dump” him?

42. As Cory, write a journal entry in which you explain why you found

yourself unable to swing the bat.

R e s p o n s e J o u r n a l

A c t Tw o , S c e n e F i v e

43. When Bono sees that Cory has become a corporal with the Marines, he

says, “Your daddy knew you had it in you. He used to tell me all the

time.” In the span of the play, we never get to hear Troy say much about

his belief in Cory. Pretend there was a missing monologue earlier in the

play when Troy told Bono how he felt about his younger. Write Troy’s

monologue. In it, try to capture Troy’s style of speaking.

44. When Cory refuses to go to Troy’s funeral, Rose tells him, “You’re just

like [Troy]. You got him in you good…You Troy Maxson all over again.”

As Rose, explain what it is about Cory’s behavior that reminds you of

Troy.

45. How do you feel about the way Fences ends? Do you find it a fitting or

an unsatisfying ending? Write a short letter to August Wilson, the playwright,

commenting on the ending and whether you would have ended

the play differently.

46. Imagine that Troy had the chance to say a few last words of wisdom or

love to each of his family members and Bono. Write out one or two sentences

Troy might have said to Rose, Raynell, Cory, Lyons, Gabe, and

Bono.

47. In a paragraph, name your favorite character from Fences and explain

why she or he is your favorite.

F e n c e s

48. Pretend that a new film version of Fences is beginning production and

that you are the casting agent. Choose an actor to play each of the following

roles. After choosing, write a quick note as to why you think

each choice is perfect for the part.

Troy

Rose

Cory

Gabe

49. Imagine, as above, that you are working on a filmed version of Fences.

This time, however, you are the person responsible for the soundtrack.

Name three songs you’d include in the movie. Include which scene

you’d use each song in and why you think the songs fit well with the

scenes.

50. Write an epilogue to Fences. Pretend that ten to fifteen years have

passed, and explain what has become of Rose, Raynell, Cory, Lyons,

Gabe, and Bono.

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