In Fences, why would Troy cheat with Alberta instead of just trying to make it right with Rose, a good woman?

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Troy Maxson is a generally unhappy man, and he’s also unable to shoulder the blame for his shortcomings, preferring to project his failures onto his circumstances or onto those around him. The fact that the color of his skin has stood in the way of his success, both in his...

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Troy Maxson is a generally unhappy man, and he’s also unable to shoulder the blame for his shortcomings, preferring to project his failures onto his circumstances or onto those around him. The fact that the color of his skin has stood in the way of his success, both in his sporting career and in terms of his later ambitions, have left him bitter and shallow.

While making it right with Rose would have required real effort and sacrifice on his part, indulging in pleasures like having an affair with Alberta enables him to meet his own selfish needs comfortably and enjoy something quite outside what he considers the doldrums of his everyday life.

When Rose finally finds out about this affair, Troy explains to her that the affair was a way of escaping the pressures of his everyday life—a way to be without the worries of mundane home-related stresses, such as paying the bills and carrying out necessary home maintenance. The harsh lesson for Troy, of course, is that irresponsible behavior can lead to even greater stress and responsibility. When his mistress becomes pregnant, Troy now has raising an illegitimate daughter to add to his list of woes.

In a nutshell, Troy is a weak man who takes what he perceives as the easy way out.

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One thing we learn about Troy is that he'll never take responsibility for his own actions. He's gone through life playing the victim at every opportunity, whether as a ball player or in his current job at the sanitation department. As he feels himself the victim of forces beyond his control, he doesn't see the point of taking responsibility for his actions, hence his cheating on Rose.

This is a man who goes through life with a chip on his shoulder, feeling that the world owes him something for all the trials and tribulations he's been through. His extramarital affair with Alberta can be seen as some kind of compensation for his troubles, a way of gaining some measure of control over a life that has always seemed to be controlled by others.

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Troy explains to Rose his reasons for having an extramarital relationship with Alberta. He says the following:

"She gives me a different idea . . . a different understanding about myself. I can step out of this house and get away from the pressures and problems . . . be a different man. I ain't got to wonder how I'm gonna pay the bills or get the roof fixed."

Although Rose is a loving woman to whom Troy is dedicated, he finds himself feeling stressed by his family responsibilities. In having an affair, he is envisioning himself as different than the family man he is and is freeing himself from his commitments. Troy has long felt crushed by trying to make his way in a racist world, and the pressure of having to make a living has made him bitter at times. Having an affair makes him feel that he can momentarily escape from these pressures.

It is also clear that Troy fears death, and perhaps having an affair convinces him that he is living large and that death won't haunt him. The irony is that his mistress, Alberta, becomes pregnant, so he has more family responsibilities (that eventually devolve to Rose) in raising his out-of-wedlock daughter.

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Two of Troy's tendencies play into his decision to cheat on Rose with Alberta. 

First, Troy has a strong tendency to excuse himself. We see this tendency in his fixation on how he was wronged in his baseball career. 

The fifteen years that Troy spent in prison made him too old for the major leagues. Troy ignores this argument, since to acknowledge that he was too old is to accept partial responsibility for not being able to play...

For Troy, blaming others allows him to cast himself as innocent in  his own mind. He says as much when explaining to Rose his reasons for cheating with Alberta.

The marriage is an unending series of obligations for him, with no possibility for laughter and ease. Though he does not blame Rose for this, he also refuses to apologize for cheating. He says his conscience is clear.

The pressures of his life as a provider have led him, quite naturally in his view, to find an outlet, as he tells his wife. 

His response to her anger and pain is an admission that the other woman offers an escape from his responsibilities. She makes him forget the endless repetition of his life for a few moments.

In going outside of the marriage, Troy is enacting a second tendency in his character - to exceed limits and fight against boundaries. Troy's biography is marked by his efforts (successful and not) to break down barriers.

His bitterness regarding baseball stems from his failure to break the color barrier and play major league baseball. His baseball career in itself was characterized by his home runs - a symbolic victory over the barriers set up at the edges of the game. 

For these reasons, Troy is drawn to go outside of his marriage and able to excuse himself from guilt as well. 

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