Troy Maxson Character Analysis in August Wilson’s Novel Fences

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

In 1983, one of the most influential American Theater writers, August Wilson introduced his literature masterpiece Fences. Based in the nineteen fifties it brings the viewer through a realistic and depressing story of African Americans in the fifties. Wilson’s play fences explains the story of Troy Maxson character a promising baseball player through life became a felon and lost his opportunity to have a career in baseball.

The audience gets to see first hand how Troy Maxson seems to take issue with every other character in the story. This is most vividly seen through Troy’s relationship with one of his sons Cory. The two have some similarities but mostly differences which leads the two characters to constantly “but heads” Through these two constant bickering and outside issues it leads to the true characteristics of the father comes out. He is a father of two boys Cory and Lynos, and a wife of Rose. Some things that Troy does in the play makes him to be described as a weak character. Troy has many noticeable traits of being strong but the way he is with his family portrays him as a weak character in the play. Troy Maxson acts selfish towards his family and friends because he does not take responsibility for his actions. His way of acting is the cause of some of the main problems throughout this piece. Troy’s character is what everyone else revolves around in the play, along with their complicated relationship they have this paired with many outside issues leads the audience to believe Troy is weak and selfish.

To begin with, the viewer must first understand the selfish, egotistical personality of the father Troy. First, in an act of pure narcissism “In act 2 Rose learns that Troy has been unfaithful to her and fathered a child with his mistress, Alberta”. (Susan) To make matters worse once being caught up in his affair he tries to explain as if to justify his deception through analogies. He continues to defend this fact by claiming to be the breadwinner and deserving of cheating on his wife. Troy is also the source of many complicated relationships, especially between Troy Maxson character and his son. One of the main issues between these two is the generational gap they do not relate to each others struggle Troy never tries to understand the world his son lives in making him very egocentric.

Another example of his selfishness is what he does when his son wants to play football “Why you wanna do that to me? That was the one chance I had… I can’t work after school during the football season, Pop! I tried to tell you Mr. Stawicki’s holding my job for me. You don’t ever want to listen to nobody. And then you wanna go and do this to me! Just cause you didn’t have a chance! You just scared I’m gonna be better than you, that’s all.”(Wilson) With this life-changing opportunity for Cory one must ask himself how a father would not want his son to pursue it. Cory believes that his father is just jealous of his success with football and does not want his son to be more successful in sports than he ever was leading the viewer to see his self centered ego in full effect. Troy claims, “The American dream has turned into a prolonged nightmare. Instead of limitless opportunity, he has come to know racial discrimination and poverty. At age 53 this former Negro league hero is a garbage collector”(Koprince). Troy does not understand it is a different time and instead of giving his son a chance to try and make something in the sports world he does not even give him an opportunity straining their father son relationship even more. Cory goes on to say, “The whole time I was growing up… living in his house… Papa was like a shadow that follows you everywhere. It weighed on you and sunk into your flesh. It would wrap around you and lay there until you couldn’t tell which one was you anymore. That shadow digging in your flesh. Trying to crawl in. Trying to live through you. Everywhere I looked, Troy Maxson was staring back at me… hiding under the bed… in the closet. I’m just saying I’ve got to find a way to get rid of that shadow, Mama.”(Wilson)

Through Cory’s life he has felt that his father has been trying to control every decision the young boy has ever made which has led his son to resent him. It is this “stuck in his way” attitude that leads to Troy not letting his son pursue a football career and brushing it off as a waste of time. Troy has created such a hostile environment in his own home that his son believes there is no escape from his lurching shadow the same shadow that has took control of ever decision Cory has made throughout his young life.

Finally, Troy’s attitude towards his decisions is clearly see through Joseph Wesslings quote “He holds a steady but disagreeable job as a garbage collector,supports a wife and son, stys sober six days a week, wins his own private civil-rights battle to become a driver, and remains faithful to Rose for eighteen years before he falls”(Wessling).Troy takes his supporting family life as an excuse for why he does the things he does like the disciplinarian he has become to his children or how he cheats on his wife with another woman.


In the end, “Fences” is a true American story based on the struggle of a family whose selfish father has not changed with the times. Through destroying his own son’s football career and trying to live vicariously through him. Troy has destroyed relationships with his family and the people around him because of his own shortcomings as a man from running the sanctity of his marriage for some fling or destroying his relationship with his son the reader finds out how truly selfish this man has become.


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