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In August Wilson's play, Fences, Cory is able to stop the destructive cycle that his father, Troy, had fallen into because of his father, and become his own person in this tragedy.
A major theme in the play revolves around the children (first Cory, and later Raynell) paying for a parent's mistakes, as Rose articulates:
You can't visit the sins of the father upon the child.
Troy Maxson does this to Cory. His brutalized Troy. Because of Troy's upbringing, he turns to violence himself. As a young man, he kills someone and goes to jail. By the time he is released, he is too old to play baseball in the major leagues, which had just begun the integration of African-American players. Troy is bitter! He works for a trash company and wants something better for his son, Cory; but in pushing a sense of responsibility on him, Troy robs his son of a chance to play football in college: of achieving what Troy could not.
When the audience meets Cory, he is a young man of promise. He has quit his job at the A&P to dedicate more time to sports—a recruiter from North Carolina wants him for his team. Cory's mother is excited about this. Rose announces:
Cory done went and got recruited by a college football team.
This is a dream come true for Cory. Troy's plans for his son are very different:
You go on and get your book-learning so you can work yourself up in that A&P or learn how to fix cars or build houses or something, get you a trade. That way you have something can't nobody take away from you.
Cory really wants this. However, his father refuses to let Cory meet with the recruiter; he insists that he get his job back. Troy sees this as an investment in Cory's future, but Cory has dreams beyond small jobs and subservient positions. Cory is not like his dad and he does not identify with his father's missed opportunities, mistakes and disappointments. It seems Cory receives the brunt of his father's frustration. This causes major conflicts between father and son.
Cory tells his dad:
You just scared I'm gonna be better than you, that's all.
Cory also has a sense of fair play; ultimately he accuses his father of taking his Gabriel's money (a World War II veteran who believes he is the angel Gabriel) to buy Troy's house. With this, Troy throws Cory out for good.
Tragically, years pass and Troy dies of a heart attack. The family gathers for the funeral. Cory does not want to go. Rose explains that Troy may have made mistakes, but she believes he made decisions with the best of intentions. She cautions Cory about reacting to his father at this time with the anger his father harbored for his own situation. She tells Cory that refusing to go does not make Cory a man.
Cory ends the cycle that defined his father. He chooses to do the decent thing. He and his sister sing some of his dad's blues songs. By the play's end...
Cory has spent the last six years as a Marine, but he is now considering a new direction that includes marriage and a new job.
Cory is a young man who struggles with his relationship with his dad, but Troy's "ghosts" interfere. Cory is a strong personality, standing up to his father. Even after he is forced to leave home, he finds a way to make it on his own. Ironically—even with all of Troy's resistance—Cory's accomplishments would have made him proud of his son, achieving what Troy wanted for him, but was unable to give him. Cory had to find these things for himself.
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