Why wasn't Troy okay with Cory playing football in Fences?

Troy wasn't okay with Cory playing football in Fences because he was worried that the fact that he is black will stop him from getting to the top in this sport, just like it stopped Troy from getting to the top in baseball.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Troy had a problem with his son, Cory, getting serious about football because he believes the color of his skin will not work in his favor in this sport. He fears that white boys will get opportunities that he does not. This is based on his own disappointments earlier in life, when the color of his skin stood between him and his dream of becoming a professional baseball player. Troy is blinded by the disappointments of his past, and cannot see the golden opportunity that Cory has in front of him.

His wife's arguments that times have changed fall on deaf ears, and Troy tells Cory to study hard so that he can work his way up within the company that he is currently working for. If Cory is not keen on that, Troy says he can go and learn how to be a builder or a mechanic and make a living with his hands. The one thing he is NOT allowed to do is fixate on a future as a sportsman.

Troy has fallen into the exact trap that lawmakers who wrote racist rules and laws hoped that he would: he has come to believe that color of his skin—and his son's skin—is destined to stand between them and greatness.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Troy Maxson is a bitter man who resents the fact that racial prejudice prevented him from becoming a professional baseball player and does not want his son Cory to experience the same discrimination and disappointment. Although Cory is being recruited to play football in college, Troy's bitterness and negative personal experiences prevent him from exercising perspective and allowing Cory to pursue his dreams.

When Rose tells Troy that it is an honor that Cory is being recruited, Troy responds by saying that playing football will get him nowhere. Rose then argues that times have changed, but Troy refuses to acknowledge the reality of the present situation, which is that black athletes are given plenty of opportunities. Troy firmly believes that racial discrimination will prevent Cory from being successful and tells his son:

The white man ain't gonna let you get nowhere with that football no way. You go on and get your book-learning so you can work yourself up in that A&P or learn how to fix cars or build houses or something, get you a trade. That way you have something can't nobody take away from you. You go on and learn how to put your hands to some good use. (Wilson 51)

While it seems that Troy is genuinely concerned about Cory's future and believes that racial prejudice will negatively affect his opportunities in sports, Troy also does not want Cory to become more successful than him. Troy is a selfish man who fears that Cory's success will overshadow his own athletic accomplishments. Cory understands this side of his father's personality and realizes that Troy's jealously has something to do with why he does not allow him to play football.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Troy wasn't alright with his son, Cory, playing football because Troy associates sports with the racist trauma he experienced following his attempts to break into professional baseball in his youth.

Troy is convinced that Cory will experience the same kind of discrimination that he did and would rather Cory avoid building up his hopes of succeeding in a racist world altogether, rather than see his son have his hopes dashed.

It is clear that this is a projection of the fact that Troy wishes he had never tried and failed and that he thinks it would have been simpler and less painful if he had never tried at all. Still, Cory doesn't want to trust that he will have the same experience that his father did.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As usual, Troy remains embittered by his past. He believes that he was held back from pursuing a career in professional baseball by racial prejudice, and he doesn't want Cory's dreams of sporting success to be similarly thwarted. This may make it seem that Troy really cares about Cory's getting hurt. But as it's perfectly obvious that Troy and Cory don't get on very well, this isn't the case. Troy is rather jealous of Cory, and is worried, not so much that he'll be the victim of racism, but that he'll actually succeed where his father failed. Troy is so bitter, so emotionally immature, that he doesn't see why Cory should enjoy the kind of success that he believes was denied him. So he forbids his son from playing for the high school football team.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Troy does not want Cory to play football because Troy fears that Cory will be disappointed, as racism will interfere with Cory's ability to play. Troy says to Rose, his wife, "The white man ain't gonna let him get nowhere with that football." Troy's experience is that white people do not let black people get ahead, no matter how talented they are. When Troy was younger, he was a talented baseball player, but he couldn't play in the major leagues because of his race. Instead, he now works on a garbage truck. He feels that Cory should aim for something practical, such as working on a garbage truck. Essentially, Troy does not want Cory to experience the heartbreak and disappointment that he experienced as a young person, so he wants Cory to only try for opportunities that are easily available to him as a black man.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team