In Fences, what is the nature of the conflict between Cory and Troy?
Each character sees this conflict differently. For Cory, Troy is creating a rivalry with him regarding sports.
Cory feels that Troy is refusing to allow him to play football out of a jealous impulse. He thinks that Troy is worried that he will become a better athlete than his father. Cory also feels that Troy simply does not like him.
Troy, with a quite different take on the situation, feels that he is attending to Cory's best interests by pulling him from the football team and refusing to sign the recruitment papers.
Troy is unable to accept that his son might succeed where he had failed—and Cory accuses his father of just such a motivation. But it is more than a desire to control Cory's success that is at the heart of Troy's actions.
Troy continues to harbor an abiding bitterness regarding his athletic career. He wants to keep Cory from experiencing the same bitterness. He also wants to make sure that Cory does not end up hauling garbage for a living. Troy wants Cory to have a better life than he has had.
The conflict between the father and son is part rivalry and part insistent paternal care. However, Troy's failure to communicate any love or kindness to his son leads Cory to see only the rivalry and none of the care. The two become cut off from one another largely as a result of Troy's inability to yield any affection or softness to his son.
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.
Troy cannot say that he likes or loves his son when Cory directly asks him the question, "Why don't you like me?"
Later, he cannot admit to his failures as a husband and father and, in his stubbornness, he repeats a regrettable episode from his own past, fighting with his son and forcing Cory to leave home.