Troy Maxson: A Study of the Human Condition

Categories: Fences

When tragedy arises we look to heroes. People whose actions are deemed remarkable. The search for those individuals and their journey has plagued the mind of society from the beginning. From Othello to Robin Hood and Atticus Finch we look to these characters as models of someone we should strive to emulate. We then, in return, cast aside Claudius, Scar, and Satan (Paradise Lost). Many classic villains who can be seen as just misunderstood. So why do we label one a villain and another a hero? Looking closer it is sometimes just as easy to see the motives of a “villainous” character.

Wasn’t Claudius just overly jealous? Scar was next in line for the throne. If you had prepared to rule for your entire life and then had it taken away by a child wouldn’t you wish to find a way to get it back? Villains and heroes are exaggerations of emotions and ideas brought upon by society. This is why we can empathize with them so easily and end up rooting for or against them.

Get quality help now
Dr. Karlyna PhD
Dr. Karlyna PhD
checked Verified writer

Proficient in: Free Essays

star star star star 4.7 (235)

“ Amazing writer! I am really satisfied with her work. An excellent price as well. ”

avatar avatar avatar
+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

Then enters the tragic hero. They start their journey as any other hero would likable, seemingly willing to do anything for their goals until a fatal flaw emerges. These flaws then lead our hero down a dark path and many later succumb inevitably to his/her own destruction; however, we still find ourselves on their side relating to their imperfections. Being empathetic is usually characterized as the most basic means of distinguishing the good from the bad, yet, humanity is not perfect and when presented a character who embodies some of those imperfections we should take it upon ourselves to use them as a means of reflecting upon our own lives and actions.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

Therefore I argue that Troy Maxson is both an empathetic and unempathetic character; a true example of the tragic hero.

Troy Maxson, a loud, attention-demanding protagonist? As many who experience the August Wilson play Fences (whether by theater, movie or book) have come to debate Troy is a highly controversial character and a key point of conversation when looking at empathy in literature. As the “protagonist” of Fences, Troy is a responsible man whose dysfunctional dreams make him prone to believing in self-created illusions, and yet many have identified him as unempathetic and even a villainous dictator resulting from his ability to believe in those self-created illusions and his inability to accept other's choices in life when they differ from his own philosophical beliefs. Many have come to question the choices of Wilson by including Troy as his protagonist. When looking at many “American Classics” the protagonist is a likable and an overall empathetic hero whom you find yourself rooting for. Troy presents himself in a way to camouflage the flaws trying to replicate the same image given by the protagonists of classic literature, but soon his perfect facade breaks down resulting in many of the major conflicts within the play. These conflicts arise from the complex and trying relationships between Troy and the other characters.

From his wife Rose, who keeps Troy in line and forgives him for his mistakes towards his family and herself, to Cory and Lyons who look to Troy for fatherly support and guidance. Though Troy is not as emotionally affectionate with his boys he does strive to, in his mind, advise and do the best he can for them. Though the boys and he do not see eye to eye on many occations Troy is simply trying to protect them. His need to protect and provide for his family comes for the longing he had for those same things as a child born with “two strikes against him.” Troy’s relationship with his own father, an abusive and neglectful single parent who ends up beating his own son close to death and by proxy chases him at age 14 out of the only home he has. All the people around Troy try to make him realize that the times are changing. One specific and prominent example of this is that Cory and his chance than he of attaining his dream to play football. Troy’s wife Rose tries to explain, “They got lots of colored boys playing ball now. Baseball and football.” This is an attempt of appealing to one of the few semi fond memories Troy has. Troy played in the Nergo League in 1950s Pittsburg. He claims to have been a star player but there is never any account of him playing except his own. Troy loved baseball but ended his career on a sour note as he was never able to join the MLB (Major League Baseball) due to segregation laws. His best and only appearing friend in the play Bono works as a voice of reason claiming that “Times have changed, Troy, you just come along too early.” Troy still emotionally not able to get past the fact denies his son Cory of an opportunity to get drafted to play college football. In his own words, Troy argues that “The white man ain’t gonna let you get nowhere with that football noway.” Cory blames his father for doing this out of resentment, but Troy later while in conversation with Rose states “I got sense enough not to let my boy get hurt playing no sports.” Troy puts an end to Cory’s football dream out of both his own disappointment and his desire to protect his boy in an attempt to avoid the same relationship he had with his own father. It’s these wrestling of movies inside Troy that make him a complex and tragic character.

The complexity of Troy manifests in the good and admirable qualities of his personality as well as dark and ultimately unforgivable mistakes. Throughout the play, it’s easy to feel anger, pity, and respect towards him. Even though Troy pursues the wrong course in trying to help Cory, it’s still apparent that he cares for his son in his fractured way. Troy despised his father, who was abusive and neglectful but kept by his family due to a sense of responsibility, which is molded into Troy’s character. He goes to work every day to provide for his family but he can’t express the love to them that they crave. Troy even owns up to his mistakes specfically in a scenario in which many people could have possibly run away from their problems. Troy comits adultry with a younger woman named Alberta. When this affair ultimately kills Alberta as a result of the birth of Troy daughter Raynell Troy takes Raynell home. This causes shock waves to shatter the remanence of the relationship between Troy and Rose but ulimately even Rose joins in the efforts raising Raynell as her own. This leads to the ultimate end to his and Cory’s relationship as well after a dramatic fight in which Cory is kicked out by a drunk Troy and told to never come home. Though Tory burns the bridge between himself and Croy (replicating his relationship with his father which he strived to avoid) in the process his doe care for and raises Raynell until his death at the end of the play.

Troy Maxson isn’t a bad man, though his actions and speech may come off as cruel he is admirable in his firm responsibility towards his family as a provider. Deep beneath his tough exterior is a man who truly cares about his family but never learned the right way to show it. The tragedy is that his family nor Troy himself realize this until after his death and his actions tear the family apart. August Wilson calls upon each member of his audience to look around and realize the true complexities of what it is to be human. He brings insight to the fact that we all make mistakes by presenting us with a character whose mistakes are much larger than the ones we may come to simply look over as it is easier to ignore them then to take action. Troy may even be a similar or exact replica of someone’s personal experiences. Deep down Troy has good intentions but his lack of support and his emotional instabilities get the best of him. By seeing the discord provided by his actions or lack thereof we are able to then look at others and try to empathize more with them. Troy Maxson is a tool provided to us explain the vast grey area of right and wrong. He is the symbol of all the flaws and mistakes made every day by ourselves and those around us. Troy Maxson is a perfect example of how in a single moment we subconsciously press judgments on others without thinking about there own thought process or lack of judgment. In conclusion, Troy Maxson is the ultimate tool in the practice of empathy and a true look into the human condition.

Updated: Feb 18, 2024
Cite this page

Troy Maxson: A Study of the Human Condition. (2024, Feb 18). Retrieved from

Live chat  with support 24/7

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment