Illustration of Christopher Mahon with a noose around his neck and a woman standing in front of him

The Playboy of the Western World

by J. M. Synge
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In The Playboy of the Western World and Juno and the Paycock both Synge and O'Casey don't uphold the doctrines of the simple peasant Irish man. They portray both Christy and Juno as undergoing total transformations. Elaborate on these changes of outlook in both characters as a result of the actions of the plays.

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The character of Christy Mahon in J. M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World grows substantially; however, in many ways, the young man’s development occurs despite rather than because of his own efforts. After Christy mistakenly concludes that he has killed his abusive father, he retreats into a panic-induced bout of drinking. Regarding his rash actions as heroism, the pub’s clients lavish praise on him. As Christy’s opinion of himself improves, he develops not just self-confidence but bravado, shown through ever-more-elaborate tales. He garners the affection of a pub worker, Pegeen. The appearance of the very much alive father puts an end to this mythologizing, and Christy is condemned for murdering him a second time. Ultimately, the confidence that Christy gained from the strangers’ praise helps him develop into a man capable of standing up for himself, even though Pegeen breaks up with him.

Juno and the Paycock unfolds in an urban rather than a rural setting and confronts contemporary political struggles. Juno shows some similarities to Christy, however, in that she has been subjugated by a domineering figure in her home; in this case, it is a husband rather than a father who belittles and controls her. O’Casey shows Juno engaged in a constant struggle to keep their household afloat in the face of Jack’s irresponsible overspending. All the hype over the supposed legacy only makes things worse. Already worried over her son’s involvement in Irish republican activism, she nears despair as she learns of her daughter’s pregnancy. Juno decides to help Mary, the daughter, by sending her away from the dangerous city and finally takes another decisive step in leaving her husband to fend for himself.

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