What is ironic about Troy's job as a garbage truck driver in Fences?

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In 1985, August Wilson wrote the play Fences, which centers around an African American man named Troy who struggles to provide for his family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Troy was a great baseball player in the Negro Leagues, but he was never able to break the color barrier to make it into Major League Baseball. Troy works as a trash collector. Troy fights for workplace equality and eventually becomes the city’s first African American garbage truck driver. In order to accept this promotion, Troy lies about having a valid driver’s license, which is vital for the position.

There are a number of aspects of irony associated with this. First, from the perspective of being “qualified” for a job, Troy is both a victim and a beneficiary. The color barrier in Major League Baseball was used as a racist and segregationist tactic to keep African Americans out of the most desirable and most lucrative professional league. Troy was qualified for a spot in Major League Baseball in terms of talent, but his skin color did not allow him to enter it.

On the other hand, Troy is not qualified for the job as a garbage truck driver, because he lacks a driver’s license, which proves a driver can safely operate a truck. Troy is a hard worker, but the lack of the license is legitimately disqualifying. He lies to his boss to accept this promotion. While simultaneously arguing for workplace equality, Troy is taking the job of someone more qualified.

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The irony of Troy's promotion as a garbage truck driver concerns the fact that he does not have a license and is not qualified to have the position he demands. It is also ironic that Troy champions fairness and equality but is acting unfairly by lying to his boss. Troy Maxson is depicted as an extremely bitter man who resents the fact that he was not able to play Major League baseball because of racial discrimination. Although Troy was talented enough to play professional baseball, racial prejudice stood in his way. Troy also went to prison for an extended period of time in the middle of his playing career and was too old to compete at a professional level when he eventually earned his freedom. Although Troy has a steady job as a garbage man, he remains bitter and continues to view America as a prejudiced country where black men are constantly discriminated against.

Troy's strong feelings regarding racial prejudice motivate him to challenge his boss and fight for equality in the workplace. Troy feels that he and other black workers are being discriminated against because they are prohibited from becoming drivers, which is a significantly easier job. After Troy speaks to his boss about the situation, he receives a promotion and becomes a garbage truck driver. However, Bono points out that Troy does not even have a license and is not qualified to drive the truck. To make matters worse, Troy does not even like driving the truck, because he has no one to talk to and is extremely lonely. Therefore, Troy's promotion is ironic because he is not qualified for the job he demands to have and does not enjoy his new position.

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Troy's position as a garbage truck driver is the only steady job that Troy seems to have ever had. In the play, we learn of his sorted past as a criminal for which he served time in prison. We also learn about his success and prowess in the Negro Leagues of Baseball, which of course was based on the discrimination against black players in the Major Leagues. These two elements of his past seem to have created an expectation of discrimination in Troy, and that expectation follows Troy into his job with the sanitation department.

The job is respectable and steady, and he works with his good friend Bono making a decent living for his family, yet Troy is unsatisfied. He complains about not being up for promotion because of discrimination, but when he is finally promoted, we learn that he doesn't have a driver's license and that his bosses are unaware of that fact.

Troy says while speaking to Bono that all he really wants is fairness in the hiring process: "All I want them to do is change the job description. Give everybody a chance to drive the truck."

But as we learn through indirect characterization about Troy, he is self-motivated, so this idea of equality in the hiring process is really a chance for him more so than for the group he happens to identify with. The fact that he takes the position that he is unqualified for proves that he cares more about his own opportunity than he cares about doing the right thing. The irony of the situation is that Troy preaches fairness though he himself is being unfair in accepting a job that he has no qualifications for, effectively stealing the job from other black employees who are qualified.

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Troy had complained to the management at the garbage company about discrimination. Troy claims that the reason he cannot get a promotion to the position of driver is the result of systematic discrimination. 

He has noticed that only white men are promoted to driver, and, although he possesses no driver's license, Troy complains about the injustice of a system that favors one race while excluding another.

After Troy's complaints result in a promotion to driver, we find out that Troy does not have a driver's license. This is an ironic situation in that Troy's complaint is shown to be purely abstract and even might be said to be based in his own prejudice and entrenched biases. 

He is applying a generalization to his experiences which is very similar to the same kind of race-based bias he argues is holding him back on the job. 

Also, more simply, Troy is complaining about not getting a job that he is definitively unqualified for. 

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