CORY: Coach Zellman say the recruiter gonna be coming by to talk to you. You gotta sign the permission papers. . . . Mr. Stawicki say he gonna hold my job for me until after the football season. Say starting next week I can work weekends. . . . I get good grades, Pop. That’s why the recruiter wants to talk with you. You got to keep up your grades to get recruited. This way I’ll be going to college. I’ll get a chance . . .
Troy describes his son, Cory, as “scared of work,” but clearly Cory is ambitious and thinks ahead. Here he explains to Troy that he is being recruited to play college football, so he has arranged to work less during football season while keeping his job. Cory also gets good grades. He is following the steps presented to him to get ahead. Unfortunately, Troy rejects any plan designed by someone else. In their exchange, Cory never gets to complete his sentence “I’ll get a chance . . . ”
TROY: That boy walking around here smelling his piss . . . thinking he’s grown. Thinking he’s gonna do what he want, irrespective of what I say. Look here, Bono . . . I left the Commissioner’s office and went down to the A&P . . . that boy ain’t working down there. He lying to me. Telling me he got his job back . . . telling me he working weekends . . . telling me he working after school . . . Mr. Stawicki tell me he ain’t working down there at all!
Up to now, Cory has been afraid of disobeying his father. But with a college scholarship on the line, he goes against Troy’s wishes and quits his job to play football. Troy explains to Bono that he’s discovered this truth, making clear that he feels incensed that his son disobeyed him. With Troy’s overbearing personality, Cory could not have openly opposed him. Hoping not to be found out was the best Cory could do. Indeed, Troy resents the disobedience as much as or more than the lying.
CORY: Papa done went up to the school and told Coach Zellman I can’t play football no more. Wouldn’t even let me play the game. Told him to tell the recruiter not to come. . . . Why you wanna do that to me? That was the one chance I had . . . I can’t work after school during the football season, Pop! I tried to tell you Mr. Stawicki’s holding my job for me. You don’t never want to listen to nobody. And then you wanna go and do this to me! . . . Just cause you didn’t have a chance! You just scared I’m gonna be better than you, that’s all.
Troy has abruptly ended his son’s football season—and his potential to attend and play in college—because practice prevents Cory from working, even though Cory arranged to be rehired after football season. Cory’s assertion that Troy feels competitive with his son may be accurate but definitely indicates Cory’s own feelings: He would not have come to this conclusion if he was not thinking about his potential football career in comparison to Troy’s experience in sports.
CORY: You ain’t never give me nothing! You ain’t never done nothing but hold me back. Afraid I was gonna be better than you. All you ever did was try and make me scared of you. I used to tremble every time you called my name. Every time I heard your footsteps in the house. Wondering all the time . . . what’s Papa gonna say if I do this? . . . What’s Papa gonna say if I turn on the radio? And Mama, too . . . she tries . . . but she’s scared of you.
Cory confronts Troy about how he felt growing up under his father’s oppressive thumb. Troy believes that Cory owes him thanks not only for housing and raising him but simply for giving him life. Furious at his father for both ruining his college ambitions and cheating on Rose, Cory feels sure that Troy’s only desire for him was to keep him down, obedient and scared and thus unable to surpass Troy in life. Cory no longer fears his father, but he lacks the maturity to understand Troy’s perspective.
CORY: The whole time I was growing up . . . living in his house . . . Papa was like a shadow that followed you everywhere. It weighed on you and sunk into your flesh. It would wrap around you and lay there until you couldn’t tell which one was you anymore. That shadow digging in your flesh. Trying to crawl in. Trying to live through you. Everywhere I looked, Troy Maxson was staring back at me . . . hiding under the bed . . . in the closet. I’m just saying I’ve got to find a way to get rid of that shadow, Mama.
Talking to Rose after several years away, Cory still resents how oppressed his father’s parenting style made him feel. Troy was indeed overbearing, sure he knew what was best for his family. In Troy’s mind, things went his way or things were wrong. Cory feels that Troy wanted to live through him. Cory may be right, but he misunderstood Troy’s hopes. Cory has still not defined his identity beyond his father’s wishes, but this dilemma now exists as Cory’s alone: Troy is dead and no longer expressing any opinions.