‘Fences’ (Rose): “You can’t be nobody but who you are, Cory”

FENCES by August Wilson

From: Play

Type: Dramatic

Character: Rose Maxson, Troy's second wife. They were married after he was released from prison.

Gender: Female

Age Range: 30's | 40's

Summary: Rose tells Cory about why she loved Troy and how she sacrificed herself to be with him.

More: Read the Play | Watch the Film

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ROSE: You can’t be nobody but who you are, Cory. That shadow wasn’t nothing but you growing into yourself. You either got to grow into it or cut it down to fit you. But that’s all you got to make life with. That’s all you got to measure yourself against that world out there. Your daddy wanted you to be everything he wasn’t… and at the same time he tried to make you into everything he was. I don’t know if he was right or wrong… but I do know he meant to do more good than he meant to do harm. He wasn’t always right. Sometimes when he touched he bruised. And sometimes when he took me in his arms he cut.

When I first met your daddy I thought… Here is a man I can lay down with and make a baby. That’s the first thing I thought when I seen him. I was thirty years old and had done seen my share of men. But when he walked up to me and said, “I can dance a waltz that’ll make you dizzy,” I thought, Rose Lee, here is a man that you can open yourself up to and be filled to bursting. Here is a man that can fill all them empty spaces you been tipping around the edges of. One of them empty spaces was being somebody’s mother.

I married your daddy and settle down to cooking his supper and keeping clean sheets on the bed. When your Daddy walked through the house he was so big he filled it up. That was my first mistake. Not to make him leave some room for me. For my part in the matter. But at that time I wanted that. I wanted a house that I could sing in. And that’s what your daddy gave me. I didn’t know to keep up his strength I had to give up little pieces of mine. I did that. I took on his life as mine and mixed up the pieces so that you couldn’t hardly tell which was which anymore. It was my choice. It was my life and I didn’t have to live it like that. But that’s what life offered me in the way of being a woman and I took it. I grabbed hold of it with both hands.

By the time Raynell came into the house, me and your daddy had done lost touch with one another. I didn’t want to make my blessing off of nobody’s misfortune… but I took on to Raynell like she was all them babies I had wanted and never had. (The phone rings) Like I’d been blessed to relive a part of my life. And if the Lord see fit to keep up my strength… I’m gonna do her just like your daddy did you… I’m gonna give her the best of what’s in me.

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