How would you characterize the father/son relationships in the play "Fences"?

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bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The relationship between Troy and Cory Maxson is bitter and tense. Troy's hostile attitude stems from his past. He blames racism for keeping him from attaining his dream of playing major league baseball, and he can't let go of this resentment. The pain Troy feels from his past doesn't allow him to let his family get close because he has built a fence of anger and misery around himself. This fence protects Troy from being hurt any further, but it also robs him of his family's love. When Cory has the chance to get a college football scholarship, Troy denies his son the opportunity to achieve what he couldn't. Cory cannot forgive his father for it. Troy is both jealous and protective of Cory. He's afraid Cory will achieve what was denied to him, but he also wants to spare Cory from the racism that Troy faced. Cory finally leaves home when he and his father end up in a physical fight. Cory knows he can never please his father, and his feelings for Troy have turned to hatred.

Troy has another son, Lyons, by a former marriage, but he treats Lyons the same as he does Cory. He is indifferent and uncaring to Lyons as well. Lyons turns out to be much like Troy, ending up in jail just like his father.

In the end, Cory shows up for Troy's funeral, but Cory is still not sure how he feels about his father. The fence Troy built around himself will affect Cory forever, but we can hope Cory is a better father to his child

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While it is clear that Troy Maxson loves his sons, Cory and Lyons, his relationship with both of his sons is characterized by bitterness and misunderstanding. Lyons, his son from his first marriage, wants to be a musician and is far less realistic and practical than his father, who offers Lyons help to get a job on a garbage truck. Lyons feels that he does not want to be carrying other people's garbage or punching a clock, while his father will do what he needs to do to support his family. Lyons is bitter towards his father because Troy was not around when he was growing up, and he accepts Troy's money but declines his advice.

Troy's relationship with his other son, Cory, is also characterized by misunderstanding. Cory hopes to play college football, but Troy feels that white teams will never accept an African-American player, as he was not allowed to play white baseball when he was growing up. Cory wants to be part of a new generation that is beginning to integrate, but Troy does not want him to play football because he thinks it will be setting up Cory for failure and rejection. Troy winds up throwing Cory out of his house. As Troy has suffered from the effects of racism growing up, he wants his sons to play it safe. He loves them, but his way of showing love is to be hard on them. As a result, he is distanced from them and does not understand their dreams.