Last Updated on April 28, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 172
Troy Maxson is the protagonist of Wilson’s play and the patriarch of the Maxson family. At the start of the play, he is fifty-three-years-old and works with his friend Jim Bono as a garbage collector. He is characterized as a “large man with thick, heavy hands.” His “largeness,” as Wilson writes in the stage directions, “together with his blackness . . . informs his sensibilities and the choices he has made in his life.” He prides himself on being able to provide for his family. (Read our extended character analysis of Troy Maxson.)
Rose Lee Maxson
Rose Lee Maxson is Troy’s forty-three-year-old wife. Ten years younger than Troy, Rose is strong, resilient, and loving. She is extremely loyal and has been married to Troy for eighteen years. Despite Troy’s faults, Rose supports him in everything he does. As Wilson states in the stage directions, “[Rose] recognizes Troy’s spirit as a fine and illuminating one and she either ignores or forgives his faults.” (Read our extended character analysis of Rose Lee Maxson.)
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 138
Jim Bono is Troy’s friend and fellow garbage collector. They met one another while serving time in prison thirty years earlier and have been friends ever since. Of the two men, Bono is the follower and Troy the leader. Bono admires Troy’s attitude and he attempts to mimic his behavior. However, Troy's affair with Alberta and his preoccupation with her pregnancy lead to disharmony in their relationship. Bono is disappointed in his friend and concerned that Troy's affair will harm his marriage with Rose.
In contrast to Troy, Bono remains a loving and faithful husband to his wife, Lucille, whom he speaks of with passionate affection, claiming that she has made him a better man. Bono's positive, happy relationship with Lucille serves to illustrate that he has found the ability to change his direction in life.
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 274
Cory Maxson is Troy and Rose Maxson’s teenage son and a promising young football player at the start of the play. At the start of the play, Cory is an aspiring athlete and is being actively recruited for a college football scholarship, which he hopes to earn in order to eventually play football professionally. He secretly quits his job at the A&P to focus on his football career.
Cory loves his father and is eager to please him, but their relationship starts to deteriorate after Troy discovers that Cory has quit his job. For Troy, Cory represents all of the possibilities that he was denied as well as his unrealized dreams. This is why Troy believes he is looking out for his son’s best interests and hopes to prevent Cory’s dreams from being destroyed by racism, just as Troy’s were. However, Cory sees Troy’s efforts to deter him from playing football as undermining his dreams. Cory becomes aggravated when Troy approaches his coach to tell him that Cory can no longer play football, and he leaves home. Their relationship only worsens after Cory discovers Troy’s affair with Alberta. He sees his father in an entirely new way and leaves home after he and Troy argue.
In the intervening years, Cory does not speak to his father, joins the military, and becomes a marine. He attends Troy’s funeral only after Rose convinces him to and he realizes he needs to put the past behind him. At the funeral Cory forgives his father and comes to understand that Troy loved him but often failed to express it.
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 232
Gabriel Maxson is Troy’s younger brother. He received a severe head injury while fighting during World War II, and Troy has helped take care of him since his injury. As a result of his injury, Gabriel has a metal plate in his head, diminished mental capacities, and is prone to delusions in which he imagines that he is the archangel Gabriel. He wears a trumpet around his waist and carries a basket full of fruits and vegetables, which he tries to sell. He unexpectedly erupts into song and dance and fervently believes that St. Peter is waiting on him to open the gates of heaven.
Although Gabriel had previously lived in the Maxson’s family home, at the play’s start he has moved into his own place, boarding with Miss Pearl. Gabriel's fate—whether or not to commit him to a mental institution—is a source of contention between Rose and Troy, who has profited from his brother's disability compensation by using it to buy a home and pay rent. Eventually, after having to pay to release Gabriel from jail for disturbing the peace, Troy and Rose decide to have him sent to a hospital.
At Troy’s funeral, Gabriel tells St. Peter to open the gates of heaven for Troy. He tries to blow on the trumpet, and when that fails, he performs a “slow, strange” yet “life-giving” dance.
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 112
Lyons Maxson is Troy’s thirty-four-year-old son from a previous marriage before Rose. Although he claims to be a jazz musician, he is more “caught up in the rituals and ‘idea’ of being a musician.” He dresses like a quintessential jazz musician, with a goatee, sport coat, and white shirt buttoned to the top. He cares very little for his father and only visits when he needs money, which Rose supplies. Troy frequently ridicules Lyons for his lifestyle and for the fact that he is unemployed and financially supported by his wife, Bonnie. Later in the play, Lyons and Bonnie divorce and Lyons is sentenced to jail for “cashing other people's checks.”
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 82
Raynell Maxson is Troy Maxson and Alberta’s, his mistress, daughter. Troy brings Raynell to Rose when she is just three days old and asks Rose to take care of her. Rose complies and raises her. Raynell has grown into a sweet seven-year-old girl by the time of her father’s funeral in 1961. When she sings Troy's favorite song at his funeral, she helps ease Cory's pain. Her youth and innocence come to represent the Maxson family's hopes for a better future.
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 53
Although she is never seen in the play, Alberta still plays a major role in its events. She is Troy’s mistress and dies giving birth to their daughter, Raynell, whom Rose raises. The adulterous relationship between Alberta and Troy and the ensuing birth of Raynell cause the Maxson family to fall apart.