Troy Maxson, a garbage collector who is fifty-three years old at the outset of the play. He is a large man with powerful hands, a forceful personality, and a lust for life. After fighting with his father and leaving home at the age of fourteen, he became a thief to survive. He became an excellent baseball player while serving a fifteen-year sentence for murder. Embittered because racist practices prevented him from playing major league baseball, he later insists that his son Cory abandon his dream of playing football and learn a trade. Troy loves his wife, maintains a cool distance from his children, and actively protests discrimination at his workplace. He entertains and inspires his friend Jim Bono with his combination of jovial vulgarity and wisdom, and he seeks to rediscover lost passion with a mistress, Alberta. Unapologetic after fathering a child with her, he becomes isolated from his family in the years preceding his death in 1965.
Rose Lee Maxson
Rose Lee Maxson, Troy’s wife, forty-three years old at the beginning of the play. She admires her husband’s strengths and tolerates his faults but comes to regret her lack of assertiveness in his presence. Although her arguments with Troy rarely progress beyond chiding, she strongly opposes him in her support of Cory’s interest in football, and she virtually severs communication with him after discovering that he has impregnated his mistress. She agrees to rear the child after Alberta dies giving birth.
Cory Maxson, Troy and Rose’s son, a promising high school football player in 1957. His desire to please his demanding and uncompromising father turns to hatred and contempt when he learns of Troy’s romantic entanglement. After failing to best his father in a series of confrontations, Cory leaves home. He returns on the day of Troy’s funeral in 1965, wearing the uniform of a Marine corporal. He admits that he plans to marry soon and resists attending the burial ceremony.
Gabriel Maxson, Troy’s brother, seven years younger. He received a head injury while serving in World War II. As a result, he has a metal plate in his head. Subject to a recurring delusion that he is an incarnation of the archangel Gabriel, he carries an old trumpet wherever he goes. When the play commences, he has moved from Troy and Rose’s house to board with Miss Pearl. Later, Troy pays fifty dollars to free him from jail after he has been arrested for disturbing the peace. The question of whether Gabriel should be committed to a hospital is a source of contention between Rose and Troy, who has profited from the compensation dispensed to Gabriel because of his injury. At the end of the play, Gabriel tries to usher Troy into heaven, blowing his trumpet and performing an eerie dance.
Lyons, Troy’s oldest son by a previous marriage, a thirty-four-year-old at the beginning of the play. Something of a dilettante, he dabbles in the jazz scene, sporting a trim goatee, a sport coat, and a buttoned-up white shirt without a tie. He visits Troy on Fridays to borrow money. Around the time of his father’s retirement in 1961, his relationship with Bonnie comes to an end; later, he is sentenced to three years of imprisonment for cashing other people’s checks.
Jim Bono, a fellow garbage collector who has been a loyal friend of Troy since they met in prison. Because he admires Troy and Rose, he is especially concerned about his friend’s dalliance. In the years after Rose rejects her husband, he appears to have lost some faith in him as well. His own marriage to Lucille seems stable.
Raynell, a seven-year-old in 1965. She is the daughter of Troy and Alberta.