How did Troy Maxson in Fences do wrong to the other characters in the play?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that it is difficult to quickly condemn Troy as having done wrong to characters without fully understanding the wrong that was done to him.  Indeed, Troy's affair with Alberta, the adding of obligations outside of his own family, his own treatment of his wife and son with emotional neglect, as well as his inwward tendencies to fail to bring others into his world, creating psychological "fences," are all transgressions that he must accept.  Yet, where Wilson's genius might lie in being able to articulate how social reality does wrong to Troy.  His inability to fully recognize this makes him a victim to it, and causes him to commit the same acts to those he supposedly loves.  For example, Troy's own dream of being a ball player is taken away from a society that gives him little option in his life but to do wrong and then after serving his jail sentence, telling him that he is too old for the game, eliminating his only chance to play the game he loves.  This blighting of his own dreams by society is what he, ironically, seeks to do to his own son's dreams of playing football.  The withering away of hope and zeal for life that his job and his social condition has perpetrated upon him is what he forces Rose to endure.  Troy is guilty of much in way of making others suffer through pain and humiliation, but where Wilson might be calling attention to this predicament is for the audience to understand that we, as individuals, must seek out what society does to individuals and call change to eliminate it or understand that we should not be guilty of the same sins as the social order is in our interactions with those we love.  It is this call for the elimination of "fences" that brings a level of the profound to Wilson's work.

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