Essay on 'Fences': Troy Maxson Character Analysis

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Troy Maxson – Fences The Characterization and Formation of a Tragic Hero

In the play Fences, August Wilson (author) introduces Troy Maxson, a man who truly loves baseball and wanted to pursue baseball as a career since it was his passion. Due to the times, he was living in he couldn’t become a baseball player and it causes him to have a lot of regret and misery in his life. As a result, his son Cory Maxson wanted to become a football player and he didn’t want his son to go on the same track that he went. This is due to the fact of his race and how they were seen during his time. In August Wilson’s, play “Fences”, Troy Maxson can be seen as a combination of a tragic hero, a father figure, and a villain as well. In addition, Troy Maxson can be seen as a sympathetic character in the play.

In the beginning, Troy was married to Rose Maxson and he had issues with both of his two sons which are: Lyons Maxson and Cory Maxson. He becomes a tragic figure because both of his sons don’t have respect for him. They would use him for his money and not see him as a father figure. In Act 1, Scene 1, Troy and Lyons are having a dialogue and he wants money to get something when he can get a job:

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TROY. You were in the neighborhood all right, nigger. You telling the truth there. You were in the neighborhood cause it’s my payday.

LYONS. Well, hell since you mentioned it let me have ten dollars.

TROY. I’ll be damned! I’ll die and go to hell and play blackjack with the devil before I give you ten dollars. (Wilson 1.1. 67-70).

This shows how irresponsible Lyons is because he is a grown man and once you get to that stage you shouldn’t be asking for your parents for him because you can apply for a job and provide for them. Since they provided for him when he was a child. Cory was a senior in high school trying to move to college and go towards College Football and scouts are very competitive on talent. However, Troy, since he didn’t make it to play baseball he didn’t want his son to do the same mistake. Cory discussed with his father what he wants to do moving forward:

CORY. Come, on Pop! I got to practice. I can’t work after school and play football too. That team needs me. That’s what Coach Zellman says.

TROY. I don’t care what nobody else says. I’m the boss you understand? I’m the boss around here. I do the only saying what counts.

CORY. Come on, Pop! (Wilson 1.3. 80-82).

This shows how Cory is annoyed by how his father doesn’t want him to move forward in life because if people suffered what he suffer then everybody has to suffer it as well which makes Cory angry.

Then, Troy even furthers to becoming a tragic hero and a sympathetic character at the same time since he starts to tell his whole life story which becomes significant and it shows how he is the person he is today. Troy starts to tell him his whole life story which is impressive and creates a huge effect on the reader, which is significant to the overall message of the play:

TROY. We were down there by the creek enjoying ourselves when my daddy come upon us. Surprised us. He had the leather straps off the mule and commenced to whupping me like there was no tomorrow. I jumped up, mad and embarrassed. I was scared of my daddy. When he commenced to whupping me quite naturally I run to get out of the way. (Wilson 1.4.109).

This shows how he was abused and mistreated as a child and how that played a huge role in how he would see others and how he would be as a father and a husband as well. “August Wilson wrote many plays due to what happened to African-Americans due to what happened in the history throughout the times they were in.” (PBS). Troy married Rose for many years and there was a crucial issue that happened in their marriage that started to cause issues. Troy was unfaithful and it caused something horrific:

TROY. Rose! I don’t know how to say this. I can’t explain it any. It just sort of grows on you till it gets out of hand. It starts out like a little bush and the next thing you know it’s a whole forest.

ROSE. Troy, what are you talking about?

TROY. I’m talking, woman, let me talk. I’m trying to find a way to tell you. I’m gonna be a daddy. I’m gonna be somebody’s daddy.

ROSE. Troy, you’re not telling me this? You’re gonna be what? (Wilson 2.1. 65-68).

This shows how unfaithful of a husband he is and how this trauma has affected his adult life in a huge way as well.

Troy is a villain in a huge way because his life starts to go downhill in a huge way because he never had a great relationship with his son Cory. They always had arguments and never knew how to resolve problems. It continues by:

CORY. I ain’t going nowhere! Come on put me out! I ain’t scared of you.

TROY. That’s my bat!

CORY. Come on!

TROY. Put my bat down!

CORY. Come on, put me out! What’s the matter? You so badly put me out!

CORY. Come on! Come on!

TROY. You’re gonna have to use it! If you wanna draw that bat back on me you’re gonna have to use it.

TROY. Come on! Come on!

TROY. Then I’ll show you. Go on and get away from around my house. (Wilson 2.4. 88-96).

This shows how his being aggressive towards Cory and how he did not let him pursue his dreams and how he was angry in a huge way about sports, in general, causes this fight. It plays a huge role in the play because now Troy becomes a villain and after this, he dies from a stroke. So he determined and created his own destiny for himself which did not turn out to be great, but horrible for him. “August Wilson was interviewed and he told the interviewer what caused him to write or be interested in poet was the Black Power Movement which was trying to help society to move forward and accept everyone as one.” (Paris Review). This shows how he cared about people and ethics-morals as well because many issues happened during the 50s and 60s which was about the same that the Civil Rights Movement was happening for African Americans as well.

Troy Maxson is a combination of a tragic hero, father figure, villain, and sympathetic character. There is a huge lesson about his character the way he was raised as a child helped define his adulthood. This happens most of the time with society the way you raise your child is how they are going to act in the future. Since he was raised in a horrible way it affected him badly. This is because since his father was horrible to him and his mother he did not know about it affected his childhood. It was hard to find an identity for him to move forward and he somehow found a way. However, the same flashbacks from the past became the flashbacks of the present since he had a horrible example. One can conclude from this that Troy is a tragic hero, figure, and villain as well as a sympathetic character.

Works Cited

  1. “August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 29 Feb. 2016,
  2. Lyons, Bonnie, and George Plimpton. “August Wilson, The Art of Theater No. 14.” The Paris Review, The Paris Review, 30 Nov. 2018,
  3. Wilson, August. Fences, The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. 10th ed., Michael Meyer, 1995.
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