Troy Maxson as a Tragic Hero

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According to Miller, the common man is likely to face tragedy in the same way as kings do. Miller argues that the common man could also be a tragic hero if he were to encounter the same emotional situations as Oedipus. Anyone who is prepared “to lay down his life” to achieve something qualifies to be a hero (Miller). Moreover, as Miller argues, tragedy can be defined as the consequence of an individual’s complete “compulsion to evaluate himself justly.” Therefore, the definition of a hero and tragedy indicate that Troy Maxson is a tragic hero. He sacrifices himself for the good of others, but his compulsion to act like a responsible father and husband ends up making him a failure. This paper seeks to evaluate whether Troy Maxon can be considered a tragic hero by referencing Miller and Aristotle.

            Heroes are usually faced with a tragic fate because of flaws in their character. They tend to have an image of who they should be in the society and attempt to do whatever it takes to maintain their rightful status (Miller). Troy Maxson believes himself to be a responsible man. Everything he does is for the well-being of his family and to ensure that he is a good husband to his wife and a good father to his sons. According to Aristotle, “it is their characters, indeed, that make people what they are, but it is by reason of their actions that they are happy or the reverse” (65). Therefore, Troy is a hero because of his character. However, his actions, such as his controlling and demanding nature contribute to his unhappiness in the end.

            Moreover, the development of a tragic hero should be shown through portraying a character as a person with distinct qualities and dignity, who suffers a downfall due to his own strengths. The development of the plot in displaying a tragic hero is the “first essential of tragedy” (Aristotle 65). Therefore, Troy is a tragic hero in the Aristotelian sense because the author portrays him as a good man with strong values who ends up falling because of his strengths. Troy Maxson is a responsible husband who is shown to care and provide for his family. His strength lies in his willingness to do what a sensible head of a family would. However, Troy’s strict understanding of his responsibility as a father and husband is also the reason for his downfall. It can be argued the Troy’s failure to be a good father is not entirely a fault of his own since he simply tried to bring up his son in the same way he was brought up. Although “Troy loves Cory”, he sees no other way to raise him except the one he learned from his own father (Wilson 62). Troy’s father was a bitter man who “took it out on everyone”, including Troy (Wilson VII), taught his son to be violent, and therefore Troy employs the same harsh and violent manner towards Cory. One instance when this cold hostility can be seen is when he blankly tells his son that even though he has a responsibility to take care of him, liking his “black ass wasn’t part of the bargain” (Wilson 38). Such strictness and harshness make Troy end up losing his son’s affection.

            On the other hand, Troy is an honest man. He communicates truthfully even when it is likely that the truth will destroy his relationship with his wife. When Troy has an affair and his wife confronts him about it, he answers her with rare honesty and surprising directness. He tells her that he cannot end his affair with the other woman because she makes him laugh. Besides, Troy had fallen in love with Rose after he saved her from the streets and a world of abuse, which further shows that there is goodness in his character (Wilson 5). However, he had cheated on her and sired another child out of wedlock. When that child’s mother dies in childbirth, Troy asks his wife to take care of the child. She accepts to do so because the “child is innocent” and goes ahead to tell Troy that he is a “womanless man” (Wilson 79).     

            In conclusion, Troy Maxson is a tragic hero in the Aristotelian sense because he has strengths which end up making him a failure and he is a hero in Miller’s view because he sacrifices himself for the good of others. The plot is also developed in a way that first portrays Troy as a good man before showing how flaws in his character lead to his downfall. Due to his personal values and holding on to what he learned from his father, Troy ends up being an unhappy person in life, adding to the characteristics of a tragic hero.

Works Cited

Aristotle. The Poetics, in Classical Literary Criticism. Translated by Penelope Murray and T.S. Dorsch, Penguin, 1965.

Miller, Arthur. “Tragedy and the Common Man.” Accessed 20 July 2018.

Wilson, August. Fences. Plume, 1986.

December 12, 2023
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