How does Troy's past affect his future in Fences?

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

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It is this question that strikes at the heart of Wilson's protagonist.  Troy is a product of his past.  He wishes not to be, presenting himself as a picture of the present.  Yet, in everything he does, Troy's past profoundly impacts his present and future.  His childhood would be a good starting point in such an analysis.  Troy's own father was abusive.  This impacts his relationship with his children in that he is unable to express any emotions that represent love and nurturing, for these were never really shown to him as a child.  He has no role model for this, and while he does try to be a good father, particularly to Cory, he cannot fully grasp the nuances and painful subtleties of good parenting as his own past did not possess this.  Another example of how his past affects the future would be his time in prison.  He excelled at baseball.  Yet, when he is released, the integration of the Major Leagues costs him a chance at his dream.  This impacts his present and future in two distinct ways.  The first is that he never reconciles his past dream of playing ball with his current reality of working as a garbage man.  The past's hopes never fully mesh with the present reality.  At the same time, when future dreams in the hope of Cory wanting to play football present itself, Troy allows his own past failures and shortcomings to color and temper how he approaches Cory's.  In this, his own past casts a shadow on his own present and Cory's future.  Finally, when looking at Bono's description of the "walking blues," a condition of the past generation that prevented them from being able to embrace happiness and continue wandering for something unknown and undefined, one sees again how the past influences the future.  Jim recognized these signs in his own father and his Troy's father and he warns against this same syndrome to visit Troy.  Yet, with his relationship with Alberta and the constant state of unhappiness that is in Troy's life in the Second Act, one sees how the past state of "walking blues" impacts Troy's present and future.

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