How does Christy develop from a weakling into hero in The Playboy of the Western World?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

J. M. Synge 's play is largely a tribute to the power of language. Christy, we learn much later, is not quite the man of action he wants to be or that he makes his audience in the pub think he is: he did not actually kill his father. By...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

J. M. Synge's play is largely a tribute to the power of language. Christy, we learn much later, is not quite the man of action he wants to be or that he makes his audience in the pub think he is: he did not actually kill his father. By then, the deed has propelled him into a new identity.

It is through the telling, retelling, and the embroidery at each stage that the story becomes more real in the minds of those hearing and sharing it, and ultimately in Christy's own mind as well. Realizing his own power in his poetic gifts, he also becomes an object of desire in women's eyes.

This new status also conveys a responsibility, and Christy must do what is expected of a hero: compete in manly endeavors. He enters and wins the mule race. The ultimate transformation, however, comes in his estimation in the eyes of the judge who matters most—his very not-dead father, who can at last respect him.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This play is, on one level, a sociological/psychological examination of the phenomenon of "reputation," often based on hearsay and exaggeration rather than fact.  Christy's public profile, based on the rumor that he is a visiting celebrity and a tough guy from the cosmopolitan part of Ireland, plays well in rustic, rural "Western World" culture, where the local tavern patrons are impressed by any traveler from a more "exotic" environment. Christy then enters the local athletic contests and is "reputed" to have violently freed himself from the automatic paternal domination of his family by killing his father, an act seen as "romantic" in the abstract, but much too real in the present, when his father re-appears and is again assaulted by Christy.  His "reputation," then, is a product of the community's perception of him, not of actual deeds.  This coupled with the (again) imagined romantic duel between the women of the village, gives his character its "dramatic arch."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team