Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Troy Maxson, a garbage collector who is fifty-three years old at the outset of the play. He is a large man with powerful hands, a forceful personality, and a lust for life. After fighting with his father and leaving home at the age of fourteen, he became a thief to survive. He became an excellent baseball player while serving a fifteen-year sentence for murder. Embittered because racist practices prevented him from playing major league baseball, he later insists that his son Cory abandon his dream of playing football and learn a trade. Troy loves his wife, maintains a cool distance from his children, and actively protests discrimination at his workplace. He entertains and inspires his friend Jim Bono with his combination of jovial vulgarity and wisdom, and he seeks to rediscover lost passion with a mistress, Alberta. Unapologetic after fathering a child with her, he becomes isolated from his family in the years preceding his death in 1965.
Rose Lee Maxson
Rose Lee Maxson, Troy’s wife, forty-three years old at the beginning of the play. She admires her husband’s strengths and tolerates his faults but comes to regret her lack of assertiveness in his presence. Although her arguments with Troy rarely progress beyond chiding, she strongly opposes him in her support of Cory’s interest in football, and she virtually severs communication with him after discovering that he has impregnated his mistress. She...
(The entire section is 632 words.)
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Cory is the Maxsons' teenage son. When the play opens he is being actively recruited for a college football scholarship. His father feels that he is spending too much time at practice and ignoring his other responsibilities. Cory represents all the possibilities his father never had, but he also represents Troy's unmet dreams. Troy wants his son to achieve a future that does not include hauling garbage. Yet the father is unwilling to let the son attempt something that may bring him success; Troy is afraid that the world of white-dominated sports will only break Cory's heart.
When Cory quits his job to concentrate on football, his father retaliates by going to the coach and forbidding Cory to play. After a particularly heated confrontation, Cory leaves home. At the play's end, he returns after an absence of seven years for his father's funeral. 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. Initially he does not want to attend his father's funeral, the chasm is too wide, and he believes his controlling father never loved him. He eventually realizes that he must put the past behind him, forgive his father, and attend the funeral.
(The entire section is 210 words.)
Gabriel is Troy's brother. Troy has helped care for Gabriel since World War II during which his brother received a debilitating head injury. Gabriel's mental capacity has been diminished by the injury and left him believing that he is the archangel Gabriel. Troy used Gabriel's disability settlement to buy the house in which the family lives, and he continues to receive a part of Gabriel's monthly benefit checks as rent. When the play opens, Gabriel has just moved into his own lodgings. His life is filled with his singing and his expressed wait for St. Peter to call upon Gabriel to open the gates of heaven.
After bailing Gabriel out of jail several times, Troy finally has him committed to a mental hospital. At the play's end, it is Gabriel who brings some resolution as he calls for the gate of heaven to open and admit Troy. Gabriel attempts to blow a trumpet to herald Troy into heaven, finds that the mouthpiece is broken, and begins a jumping about and howling as the stage darkens.
(The entire section is 175 words.)
Troy is the principal character. He is fifty-three when the play begins. He has led a hard life, raised by an abusive father and later jailed for robbery and murder. During the fifteen years he spent in jail, Troy became an accomplished baseball player. But after his release from jail Troy was too old to play in the newly-integrated major leagues. He is bitter and resentful at the opportunities lost because of the color of his skin and is desperate to protect Cory from the same sort of disappointment. Troy lives in the past and fails to recognize that the world has changed. His father was brutal and controlling, and although Troy loves Cory, he knows of no other way to bring up a son. Thus, he repeats the mistakes of the previous generation.
Troy feels a need to control every element of his life and even declares that he will fight death if necessary. His affair with Alberta represents his attempt to escape the responsibility he feels for wife, son, and home. Unable to open up to those that he loves, Troy keeps much of his emotion inside, building imaginary fences between himself and his family and friends. While he realizes the financial responsibility of being the head of a family, he fails to grasp the emotional part of the job. Troy finally succeeds in isolating himself from his wife, his brother, his sons, and his friend.
(The entire section is 238 words.)
Bono is Troy Maxson's closest friend. They met while in prison and spent fifteen years together locked inside. Troy has been the leader whom Bono has willingly followed. They work together hauling garbage until Troy is promoted to driver. That event, combined with Troy's preoccupation with his pregnant mistress, serves to create the first serious discord between the two men in nearly thirty-four years of friendship. Bono is very concerned with Troy's dalliance with another woman and the risk it poses to his friend's marriage. Jim's wife, Lucille, is never seen on stage, but he speaks of her with obvious affection and admiration; she has tamed his wanderlust. Bono's positive relationship with Lucille demonstrates that a man has the ability to change the direction of his life.
Lyons is Troy's thirty-four-year-old son from a previous marriage; he was raised by his mother after Troy was sent to jail, and he has little respect for his father's advice. He does, however, have need of his father's money, frequently arriving at the house on Troy's paydays. Lyons hopes for a career as a musician and is disinterested in any work that would interfere with his goal. Consequently, he is unemployed and is supported by his wife, Bonnie. Lyons knows little about his father, but when he hears that his father has been on his own since he was fourteen, Lyons is finally impressed enough to pay attention as...
(The entire section is 521 words.)