A Study of the Tragic Hero Troy in August Wilson’s Story Fences

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Tragic Character?

Sometimes in life we feel that we are at the peak of our greatness. We feel empowered and that nothing can stand in our way, but because of mistakes and circumstances we crumble and fall. This is an example of what happened to Troy in the story Fences by August Wilson. Due to Troy’s selfishness, pride and cockiness he endured a tragic end, making him a tragic character. Wilson uses conflict, characterization and symbolism to bring out this idea. The main character Troy, is a garbage collector. He has a wife named Rose, two sons Cory and Lyons, a best friend named Bono, and a brother Gabriel. The story begins with Troy and Bono coming home from work and catching up.

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Troy brings up the fact that there are no black people driving the trash truck just picking up the actual garbage. He makes a point to tell his boss what he notices (Act 1 scene 1). By him doing this, Wilson allows you to start characterizing the type of person Troy is. One can see that Troy wants to get ahead and doesn’t let people step over him.

As the story continues, one can suggest that Troy seems to have things under control. He loves his wife and is a sufficient provider, which also helps characterize him. He is even given the opportunity to be the first black trash truck driver. Troy is at the top of his game, however things take a turn for the worst. Wilson introduces the several conflicts Troy faces. One of which is the fact that he doesn’t get along with his sons, specifically Cory. Cory wants to play football but instead Troy wants him to learn a trade (Act 1 scene1).

Troy was chosen to play for the Negro leagues but never got a chance to play in the Major leagues because he got too old before they started to accept black people. It seems that because this happened to him, it has hindered him from seeing sports as something good. Every opportunity Cory brings up to play sports he shuts it down, and even went as far as not signing the papers keeping him from playing and telling the coach of the team he will not be participating.

Troy refuses to move past what he endured with his experience with sports and takes it out on Cory by not letting him live his dream. This shows his ignorance of the fact that times have changed and maybe Cory could make something of himself in the sport unlike him. It also exposes his selfishness by not letting his son be happy because of his own personal issues. This also symbolizes that perhaps he’s not genuinely interested in his kid’s goals as long as it’s not what he sees for them.

Another example of Troy’s ignorance towards things is when he accidently sends his brother Gabriel away to the asylum because he signed papers thinking they were the release forms to allow Gabe out of jail. He had made a mistake in sending Gabe away because he could not read the papers that he signed. The logical thing to do knowing that you can’t read is to simply ask for help. But because of his pride, he chooses to just sign the papers and makes a blunder. This also can symbolize that even though Troy may have some things together he still does need help. He is not as confident in things as he seems at the beginning.

The most significant conflict in the story is when his wife Rose discovers that he is having an affair with another woman (Act 2 scene 1).

This clearly creates serious issues with his wife. She is outraged and feels betrayed. This also shows Troy’s selfishness because he is willing to jepordasie his family and his marriage because of another woman. The issue gets even worse because he has also impregnated this other woman he is seeing. When the woman gives birth to Troy’s child she passes away. Surprisingly Rose raises the child as if it were her own, however their relationship is still not good. Rose no longer cares and their relationship basically begins to deteriorate.

Lastly, all throughout the play Troy constantly talks about death. In the beginning he speaks of his experiences with death and the devil. He speaks to it as if it were an imaginary person.

Later in the story we find him actually taunting death. He tells it to come and get him, to confront him man to man, confident that he would win. Most people are actually afraid of death, and actually pardon with it and ask it to not come for them, but in this case it’s the exact opposite. This in a way shows Troy’s cockiness because he is more so asking for it to come and feels like he can defeat it which is impossible. It is actually ironic because he dies in the end of the story. He goes from living in the comfort of his family and friends to practically nothing.

This story symbolizes how quickly you can have what you need and lose it all. Troy started out great and in the end took a tragic fall and died. Perhaps if circumstances were different, things could have changed.

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