Fences Essay Planning Sheet Name: Mr. Miazga Period: 1st, 8/9th, 10th
Essay Title (must include title/author, colon use recommended)
Inheriting a Sense of Responsibility: Troy Maxson in August Wilson’s Fences
Hook: Should be about your topic and draw the reader in
One of the most important aspects of manhood is taking responsibility for one’s actions, regardless of the
consequences. This sense of responsibility is often passed down from father to son.
Introduction of text/author and background, including brief plot description that are relevant to your topic. Must flow from your hook.
Troy Maxson, the protagonist of August Wilson’s play Fences, does many bad things through the course of the plot,
such as cheating on his wife, fathering a child with another woman, and thwarting his son’s efforts to go to college
and play football. However, through it all, he accepts responsibility for his actions, despite the consequences. In this
way, he is like his own father, a cruel man who Troy despised, but acknowledged that he took responsibility for his
work and his children.
Thesis: Make sure it flows from your hook/introduction
Wilson characterizes Troy Maxson as responsible in order to emphasize the positive quality that was passed down from
Troy’s father to Troy along with the bad qualities. This underscores Wilson’s theme that fathers pass much down to
their children, both positive and negative, and it is how much of these qualities that the son chooses to carry that will
determine what kind of life he will lead.
First Topic Sentence (Should relate right back to thesis) (Don’t forget transition, observation, and effect)
The first time Wilson indirectly characterizes Troy as a responsible man passing down lessons to his son occurs when
he is discussing the purchase of a TV with his son.
First X (Sets the context or scene of the quote you are about to use)
During this time in the 1950s, not many working class people had televisions, but Troy’s son Cory wants his father to
buy one, and tells him he can buy it on credit.
First Y (Must have lead and parenthetical citation with Author’s last name and page number)
Troy responds, “I ain’t gonna owe nobody nothing if I can help it. Miss a payment and they come and snatch it right
out your house. Then what you do? Now, soon as I get two hundred dollars clear, then I’ll buy a TV. Right now, as soon
as I get two hundred and sixty-four dollars, I’m gonna have this roof tarred” (Wilson 35).
First Z (This should relate right back to the Topic Sentence and Thesis and include devices – the terms characterize and dialogue must be here - and
Here, Wilson’s dialogue for Troy suggests a man with a sense of responsibility. Instead of buying a television on
credit when he cannot really afford it, Troy is being responsible, and teaching his son that a person must save up for
the things he wants and not just buy them on credit if he does not have the money. Troy will wait until he gets “two
hundred dollars clear,” rather than paying for the television on credit. This is a sense of responsibility that Troy is
passing on, because choosing to tar the roof before it leaks instead of buying a new television is the responsible choice
Second Topic Sentence (Should relate right back to thesis) (Don’t forget transition, device, and effect)
Additionally, Wilson characterizes Troy as passing down a sense of responsibly to his sons because of the way he
takes care of his kids.
Second X (Sets the context or scene of the quote you are about to use)
As the action rises in the play, Cory asks his father why he never liked him. Troy answers that he does not have to like
him, but that he takes care of Cory because he is his son.
Second Y (Must have lead and parenthetical citation with author’s last name and page number)
He says, “It’s my job. It’s my responsibility! You understand that? A man got to take care of his family. You live in
my house… sleep you behind on my bedclothes… fill you belly up with my food… cause you my son. You my flesh
and blood. Not cause I like you! Cause it’s my duty to take care of you. I owe a responsibility to you!” (Wilson 39-40).
Second Z (This should relate right back to the Topic Sentence and Thesis and include devices – the terms characterize and dialogue must be here -
and perhaps deconstruction)
Here, Wilson directly characterizes Troy as responsible, by having him repeat the word “responsibility” twice in the
dialogue. Troy Maxson is a harsh man with a harsh lesson -- but it is an integral one. He is teaching his son that one
of life’s greatest responsibilities for a man is to take care of his children. This is the same type of responsibility that
Troy’s own father felt. Like his own father, Troy is being unkind in the way he is delivering the message, as he repeats
twice that he does not do anything for his son because he “likes” him. However, despite the lack of sympathy Troy is
acerbically displaying, he is also educating his son on the importance of responsibility.
Third Topic Sentence (Should relate right back to thesis) (Don’t forget transition, device, and effect)
Furthermore, Wilson’s characterization of Troy as accountable and responsible is emphasized by his care of the child
he fathered out of wedlock.
Third X (Sets the context or scene of the quote you are about to use)
After Raynell’s mother and Troy’s girlfriend, Alberta, dies during childbirth, Troy could have put her up for adoption
or simply not claimed her. Instead, he takes Raynell home and asks his wife to help raise her.
Third Y (Must have lead and parenthetical citation with Act, Scene, Lines)
He says, “She’s my daughter, Rose. My own flesh and blood. I can’t deny her no more than I can deny them boys.
(Pause.) You and them boys is my family. You and them and this child is all I got in the world. So I guess what I’m
saying is… I’d appreciate it if you’d help me take care of her” (Wilson 74).
Third Z (This should relate right back to the Topic Sentence and Thesis and include devices – the terms characterize and dialogue must be here -
and perhaps deconstruction)
This is clearly a difficult conversation and request for Troy to have, as Wilson’s stage directions of a “pause” in the
middle of the dialogue confirms. However, Troy is displaying a sense of responsibility here, as he is ensuring that
Raynell will be cared for just as Troy’s other two children. In the tragic hero path that Wilson is having Troy follow, he
is at the point where he is recognizing that his own actions are leading to his downfall. The fact that he can still be
dutiful and responsible for his child and make this difficult request of his wife illustrates the sense of responsibility
that Troy still feels in his life.
Conclusion (expanding upon your larger implication – so what? Why does this matter that Wilson made the character this way? What overall theme of
Fences does it help expand?)
Troy Maxson is an irresponsible man who, ironically, displays a great sense of responsibility for his irresponsible
actions. He passes down a sense of responsibility to his children by showing them that saving money and taking care
of one’s children are responsible choices. In this way, Troy is emulating his own father, as his father worked hard and
cared for his family despite the fact that he was such a vicious man that Troy’s mother left him. August Wilson is
expressing the theme that the epigraph for Fences also expresses, that fathers pass down an assortment of good and bad
qualities. It is clear that Troy inherited a sense of responsibility from his father, and that Cory has also inherited this
sense of responsibility. Cory’s profession of being a Marine is proof that he has grown into an adult with a sense of
responsibility, so Wilson’s theme of fathers passing down qualities to their sons is complete in the resolution of the
play. As the epigraph states, “we do not have to play host” to these sins, but, rather, we can “banish them with
forgiveness.” Cory is playing host to the good qualities that Troy passed on to him, and forgiving him for the rest.