TROY: Now I thought he was mad cause I ain’t done my work. But I see where he was chasing me off so he could have the gal for himself. When I see what the matter of it was, I lost all fear of my daddy. Right there is where I became a man . . . at fourteen years of age.
Troy explains why his father was “evil.” When Troy was fourteen, his father caught Troy fooling around with a neighbor girl and started beating Troy. Soon Troy realized his father was chasing him off because he was interested in the girl for himself. Why this made Troy suddenly feel like a man seems unclear: Maybe Troy saw that he and his father were just the same, maybe he felt overcome with a chivalrous desire to protect the girl, or maybe Troy simply wanted to prevent his father getting his own way. For whatever reason, for Troy, becoming a man included no longer being afraid of his father.
TROY: Oh, I see . . . I don’t count here no more. You ain’t got to say excuse me to your daddy. All of a sudden you done got so grown that your daddy don’t count around here no more. . . . You done got so grown to where you gonna take over. . . . You gonna wear my pants.
Troy reacts to Cory speaking to him with less respect than Troy generally demands. Cory feels angry at his father for several reasons, and this emotion affects how he speaks to Troy. Troy views Cory’s disrespect as a sign that Cory thinks of himself as a man—as the man. To Troy, there can only be one man of the house: himself. Troy learned from his own father that being the man of the house means demanding and receiving obedience and respect. But as Troy also learned and now Cory learns, part of becoming a man may mean losing respect for your father when you realize he is only human.
ROSE: Whatever was between you and your daddy . . . the time has come to put it aside. Just take it and set it over there on the shelf and forget about it. Disrespecting your daddy ain’t going to make you a man, Cory. You got to find a way to come to that on your own.
After Cory, who was kicked out of the house by Troy, makes clear he does not want to attend Troy’s funeral, Rose offers sound advice on how he can get beyond his feelings. Rose believes that expressing righteous anger by disrespecting a dead man is ludicrous. The community will view Cory as a petulant child, and his not attending the funeral will not actually punish his father. But Rose’s statement would hold true even if Troy were still alive: One does not become a man through disrespecting someone else. After six years in the marines, Cory may have assumed he already was a man. Here, Rose implies that he needs to forgive his father to truly get there.
ROSE: You can’t be nobody but who you are, Cory. That shadow wasn’t nothing but you growing into yourself. You either got to grow into it or cut it down to fit you. But that’s all you got to make a life with. That’s all you got to measure yourself against the world out there.
Rose responds to Cory after he tells her that Troy’s parenting felt oppressive. To Cory, Troy functioned like a shadow, always following him and, worse, digging into him, “trying to live through you.” Cory still feels the shadow after Troy’s death and struggles to figure out who he is beyond Troy’s desires and expectations. But Rose sees the shadow as Cory’s legacy. Yes, Troy was a huge influence. In fact, Troy and Cory are very much alike. Rose believes that Cory can take what he got from Troy—whom, as she points out, she chose to be Cory’s father—and utilize those aspects or characteristics as he sees fit.