Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 503
Extended Character Analysis
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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. Troy is loud, outspoken, and sometimes crude. Although he swears often, he is “capable of rising to profound heights of expression.”
At the age of fourteen, Troy left his family to get away from his abusive father. Broke and alone, he resorted to stealing and received a 15-year prison sentence after robbing and allegedly killing a man. During his time in prison, he became a talented baseball player. After prison, he joined the Negro Leagues. He hoped to join the major leagues after leaving prison, but could not due to racial discrimination. Since then, Troy has become embittered by racial injustices and the direction his life has taken.
When his son Cory expresses a desire to become a professional football player, Troy quickly dismisses the idea and forbids him from playing. He is furious to discover that Cory has quit his job at the A&P to focus on football. He forces Cory to get his job back and to learn a trade. Although Troy loves Cory, he expresses his love for him in a very strict and domineering way. Troy had an abusive father and that influences how he expresses his love for Cory.
Troy believes that he is protecting Cory by preventing him from playing football; he does not want his son to fall prey to the same racial inequities he experienced many years ago. While Cory tries to persuade Troy that the world is different now, Troy continues to relive the past. Even with the time that has passed, he still harbors resentment about being barred from playing professional baseball, causing him to lash out at his wife, children, and friends.
Troy has a strong desire to control every aspect of his life, and in his hubris, claims that he will even fight death itself if necessary. Troy often fails to express himself effectively, and his wife Rose believes that he builds metaphorical fences in order to emotionally distance himself from others. He has an affair with a woman named Alberta in an effort to escape his mundane life. His affair, and the birth of his mistress’s daughter, pushes his loved ones further away. In the years preceding Troy’s death, Cory, like Troy, becomes estranged from his father. Following the discovery of Troy’s affair with Alberta, Rose stops speaking with Troy. By the end of the play, Troy has died. Despite their troubled relationships with Troy, his family members attend his funeral and attempt to remember him in a positive light.