Considering everything that has happened in Fences, is Troy Maxson a good man?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Troy Maxson is only as good as his weaknesses allow him to be. He is, for the most part, an honest man who works hard to provide for his family. Duty and obligation characterize Troy's view of his life. 

Troy feels the weight of responsibility so heavily that he can see only endless weeks of labor, endless paychecks to be cashed, endless Fridays blending into one another.

Strong enough to provide for his family and honest enough to tell his wife that his mistress is pregnant, Troy is none-the-less too weak to keep himself from cheating on his wife. He is also not strong enough to be open with his son and not honest or morally strong enough to admit the real reason he never made the major leagues. 

The fifteen years that Troy spent in prison made him too old for the major leagues. Troy ignores this argument, since to acknowledge that he was too old is to accept partial responsibility for not being able to play...

As a husband, Troy is flawed, just as he is flawed as a father. However, Troy feels that he is acting with integrity at all times, even when cheating on Rose. He feels, especially, as father that he is treating Cory in a way that will lead him to success and opportunity later in life. 

Troy wants Cory to have a better life than he has had working as a garbage collector. He refuses to yield to Cory for this reason regarding football and college recruitment. 

We see here another weakness in Troy. Though he aims to be a good father to his son and to be a better father than his own father was, Troy's inability to see that the world has changed keeps him from letting his son go to college. 

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.

We can see that Troy clearly attempts to fulfill the expectations he sees for himself as a father and husband. 

While he realizes the financial responsibility of being the head of a family, he fails to grasp the emotional part of the job.


Is Troy a good person? He provides for his family, tells the truth as he sees it, and does not shirk what he sees to be his duty. Yet, a history of turmoil, bitterness and struggles with his own father have shaped Troy into an isolated person, unable to let down his defences.  

We can see Troy's strength, his boldness, his (somewhat begrudging) generosity and his concern for others. We can also see that these traits are overwhelmed by Troy's concern for a dignity and power in himself that he simply does not possess.

Troy's fixation on what he does not have and never had (a chance at the major leagues; a "fun" wife; a better position at work, etc.) distracts him from the things he does have. His friend, Bono, tries to say this to Troy. In his isolation and defensiveness, Troy does not, and possibly cannot, accept the truth of what he hears. 

His weaknesses prove stronger, in the end, than his strengths.