In August Wilson's Fences, which is most clearly NOT a conflict for Troy Maxson: his love for Rose, his son's playing football, Raynell's birth, or how he got Gabriel's money?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In August Wilson's Fences, Troy Maxson faces conflicts in some way with almost all of the examples provided. Tory loves his wife Rose, but has become involved with Alberta who becomes pregnant with his child. This creates a conflict with regard to his love for Rose. However, he refuses to run away from his responsibility to Alberta, promising he will do what is right. His affair fractures his marriage.

Cory is Troy's son, and he desperately wants to play football. He is even going to be scouted by a college in North Carolina. He gives up his job at the A&P grocery store to concentrate more on the sport. However, Troy also had dreams of being a pro baseball player; unfortunately, when the major leagues allowed the integration of black players, Troy was too old, and his disappointment in this impacts his judgment with regard to Cory, creating anger between them.

One thing that completely destroys the relationship between Troy and Cory is Cory's accusation that the house they live it should actually belong to Troy's brother, Gabriel! Gabriel suffered a head injury in World War II; he now believes he is the angel Gabriel. Eventually he is reinstitutionalized because Troy does not understand paperwork regarding Gabriel, and he is sent to an asylum. However, when Gabriel suffered his injury, he was given a settlement check and received benefits each month. It was the settlement that allowed Troy to buy their house, and he has been taking each monthly check as "rent." Cory points out that Troy has taken advantage of Gabriel, especially in that Gabriel moved out of the house and onto his own. This infuriates Troy and he tells Cory to leave for good. (Ironically, at the end, Gabriel—out of the asylum for some reason—is the one who calls to St. Peter to open heaven's gates to let Troy in—and believing it is done, he cries:

That's the way that goes.

Gabriel may not know he was been cheated, but his love for Troy probably would not change because of how Gabriel perceives himself: as one of God's angels. This is also symbolic of Gabriel's way to deal with his inability to blow his broken trumpet toward heaven—his heart and his desire to help his brother convince him that dancing and crying out will still gain heaven's attention on behalf of Troy. His comment relates a sense of his true belief that he has succeeded in getting Troy into heaven, albeit by non-traditional means.)

Perhaps the only situation that is not a source of conflict is Raynell's birth. When Alberta dies in childbirth, Rose agrees to take the child in and bring her up as her own. While it does not repair their marriage, Troy and Rose agree that it is the right thing to do. Rose especially does not believe that the little girl should be held accountable for the sinful nature of her conception.

You can't visit the sins of the father upon the child.

With more irony, this is exactly what Troy has done with Cory, as Troy has become the brute his father was. Years later, when Troy dies at the end of the play, Cory doesn't want to go to his father's funeral, but Rose tells him that staying away doesn't accomplish anything:

Your daddy wanted you to be everything he wasn't...and at the same time he tried to make you into everything he was. I don't know if he was right or wrong...but I do know he meant to do more good than he meant to do harm.

And Raynell, now eight, joins her brother—as Troy's daughter—to sing one of Troy's songs.