Troy is the protagonist of Fences. He is a working class African American man who lives with his wife, Rose, and son, Corey, in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. He works for the Sanitation Department as a garbage collector. Troy is a tragic-hero; he is dedicated to a fault to providing for his family and to making sure his sons have better lives than he has had. He was once a great baseball player in the Negro Leagues, but he was too old to join the Major Leagues when they were integrated. His past mistakes and failures greatly influence his outlook on life and his relationship with his sons.
Rose is Troy’s second wife, who he married after being released from prison. Troy maintains an affectionate patriarchal relationship with Rose, demanding respect from her as the head of the household and primary bread winner, though he is greatly influenced by her realistic take on the changing world. Rose is the mother of Corey, Troy’s youngest son.
Gabriel, or Gabe, is Troy’s brother. He suffered a traumatic head injury in World War II that left a metal plate in his head. Because of his diminished mental capacity, he acts in a childlike manner and believes that he is the Angel Gabriel, waiting for St. Peter to open the gates of Heaven for all of the saved. Troy used Gabe’s disability check from the army to buy the house in which the play takes place. At the time of the play, Gabe has moved into his own apartment, a fact that weighs on Troy.
Bono is Troy’s best friend and drinking buddy. Several scenes of the play revolve around Troy and Bono’s conversations in Troy’s backyard while drinking on Friday nights. Troy met Bono while in prison. Bono both remembers Troy’s past and serves as a moral compass for Troy in his relationship with his wife, Rose.
Lyons is Troy’s eldest son, fathered with his first wife. Lyons works as a jazz musician in Pittsburgh but often has a hard time making ends meet. Lyons often appears on Fridays, Troy’s payday, to ask for money. Troy’s complicated relationship with Lyons encompasses his admiration for his son’s attempt to do something he loves with his life, but contempt for his refusal to be a breadwinner and responsible head of household.
Cory is the son of Troy and Rose. Cory has a relationship of conflict and violence with Troy. He believes that Troy is trying to hold him back in life by refusing to sign papers that would allow him to go to college on a football scholarship. Troy insists that Cory get a real job and be responsible. In the play’s final scenes, Cory is kicked out of Troy’s house after a violent struggle, only reluctantly returning eight years later for Troy’s funeral.
Raynell is Troy’s daughter, fathered out of wedlock with Alberta, Troy’s mistress. Alberta dies in childbirth and leaves Troy to raise Raynell. Rose agrees to raise his husband’s daughter for her sake, not for his. The audience only sees Raynell as an infant and then as a small girl just before Troy’s funeral.
Identify three symbols used in the play.