Is Troy Maxson a “Tragic Hero?”
A tragic hero is a character who used to do good deeds in the light of others but allows for his flaws or inner struggles to overcome him. As a result, this downfall leads to the character’s death. In the case of Troy Maxson, main character from the play “Fences” by August Wilson, it is clear that he constantly struggles to keep up with good deeds for his family, but unfortunately allowed his inner flaws to lead him to his lonely and tragic death. Therefore, Troy Maxson is indeed considered a tragic hero and there are pieces of evidence throughout the aforementioned play that further proves my point.
Troy Maxson is a man with two sons by the name of Cory and Lyons Maxson. He had Lyons before he went to jail with one woman and had Cory after jail with Rose Maxson; his current wife. His character is made up of both positive and negative attributes. He can be described as controlling because he has all the authority during the beginning of the story when Cory brings up an opportunity in getting into college football. When this idea is brought onto Troy’s table, his immediate response was to say no. The reason for this action was clear.
He was protecting his son from having high hopes because he believed the color barrier was not broken. Although he said no to Cory’s opportunity, he was being a hero in his own way. Troy Maxson was known to be the breadwinner of the family. He provided for his wife and his son which is why he was respected. His characteristics were that of a powerful man. Rose asks Troy “what you all out here getting into? ” And he responds “what you worried about what we getting into for? This is men talk, woman” (1. 1. 41-1. 1. 42). This quote gives an example of his strong masculinity characteristics.
He struggled a lot when he was younger living with his father. His father did not provide for the family materialistically or emotionally. Growing up to this horrible lifestyle, Troy was either going to learn, grow, and live by example, or completely live his own life. He decided to live by example and do the opposite of what his father did. Although there were a couple of mistakes he made, he made sure he did not make the same mistake his dad made which was not providing for the family. Rose was Troy’s wife who respected him as a husband and made him and her children dinner every night.
According to what he says, he truly loves his wife; “I love this woman. I love this woman so much it hurts. I love her so much… I done run out of ways of loving her” (1. 1. 173). This quote allows the reader to realize that the Maxson family does have a foundation of love. Cory and Lyons also admired their father because in their eyes he was an excellent father figure. Bono was Troy’s best friend whom he met at a correction center and has known him for 30 years. Troy was a role model to Bono and he admired Troy’s leadership and responsibility at work.
After understanding the protagonist’s heroic side, it is necessary to understand that he also had a tragic downfall and that he has certain weaknesses. Troy made sure to provide for his family materialistically, but unfortunately did not expose too much of his love to his children. He was able to reluctantly give Lyons ten dollars a week but that was not enough to help him make a living. Lyons states “I just stay with my music because that’s the only way I can find to live in the world” (1. 1. 153). His dream is to be a musician.
But maybe he needed more than ten dollars a week to conquer his dream? Maybe he needed some father to son affection? Maybe being separated from his dad at such an early age affected him emotionally? He did not care for him so this in turn helped Lyons become more independent. Regardless of the lack of emotional support from Troy, he continues aspiring to reach his goal. Troy can also be considered a hero because he allows Lyons to be an independent man. Troy was known to be jealous of Cory because he got the opportunity to play a sport without discrimination against his race.
Cory expressed his feelings to his dad in this quote: “Papa done went up to the school and told Coach Zellman I can’t play football no more. … Told him to tell the recruiter not to come… Just cause you didn’t have a chance! You just scared I’m gonna be better than you, that’s all. ” (1. 4. 158-1. 4. 166) Cory is clearly stressing the fact that his father said no and blames it on his jealousy, but what he does not realize is that his father is also trying to protect him from discrimination.
The reason why Troy has this mentality is because he grew loving sports, just like his son, during the time of the Negro Leagues. He was discriminated against and he thinks that that is what Cory would go through. He might have been jealous, but he also played a heroic figure by protecting his son. Towards the end of the play Troy seems to be continuing his path down “tragic lane”. He betrays his wife by cheating on her with another woman, Alberta, and impregnating her. Alberta has her daughter but dies in the act of giving birth. Troy is left with no choice but to care for his daughter.
Rose cuts it off with Troy, but not completely because they still live under the same roof. She is more independent now and leaves the house when she pleases. Troy’s relationship with Bono, Cory and Rose changed immensely. He has lost his respect and it will be very challenging for him to redeem it. Bono has made new friends and stops by Troy’s house once in a while. They talk about their hopes for their future and about their wives. They no longer work in the same industry so after work Troy has no one to talk to. Cory and his father are not in good shape either.
The scene where Troy sits in his backyard after pay day to drink his gin and sing is when he picks a dramatic fight with his son. Cory refuses to say “excuse me” when passing by his father so Troy gets offended and tries to assert his role as a father by insisting that Cory leave his house and provide for himself since he lost his respect as the man of the house. He goes on by saying “You just another nigger on the street to me! ” (2. 4. ). He also stresses to his son that he provided for him but Cory does not take that into consideration because to him that was all materialistic.
He gave little loving care which ultimately made him fear his own father. Although Troy kicked his son out of his house, the fact that there was a physical blockade during their fight, it proves that it was immature on Troy’s part yet mature on Cory’s because of the way he went about the situation. Cory scolded his father for all his wrong doings and betrayals to the family. He challenges him to a physical fight, in his case involving a bat, just like Troy did to his father. Troy is a hero in the sense that he pushed Cory into manhood. Troy is alone. He is lonely.
His life is not the same anymore. He tried his best by providing for his family and by showing his new daughter his better side of him. When Troy died caused by a heart attack, he left his legend as a hero behind. He supported Lyons with money each week; he provided his love to Rose; his friendship and leadership to Bono; and finally his protection and help for Cory’s future. Unfortunately, he allowed for his personal demon or flaw to “get the best of him” which led him to his death, but did good deeds in the lights of others giving Troy Maxson the title of a Tragic Hero.