The Playboy of the Western World by J. M. Synge

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What is the significance of Synge's title, The Playboy of the Western World?

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The significance of "western world" in the title of The Playboy of the Western World by J. M. Synge depends on the specific meanings of the terms in Ireland at the beginning of the twentieth century. To the original audience, the "western world" would have meant western Ireland, an area including Galway and the Aran islands. These areas were considered a culturally iconic centre of Irish identity, where people still spoke Gaelic, were in touch with their Irish roots, and were least corrupted by contact with the Protestant Ascendancy. Thus a play which showed a certain critical approach to the "western world" would be like a play in the modern United States criticizing "Midwestern values" playing to an audience of conservative U.S. citizens who consider the Midwest the "heartland" of their country.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The significance of the title lies within the text of the play and within the irony the line represents. First, Christy has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity among the inhabitants of his adopted village and has found within himself a previously unsuspected skill at sports games. In fact, he wins every local sports contest. It is because of this the villagers give him the title Playboy of the Western World: he is the boy best at all sports play. This is illustrated by the Widow's remarked to Mahon while she is trying to keep him away from Christy:

WIDOW QUIN — [with the shade of a smile.] — They're cheering a young lad, the champion Playboy of the Western World. [More cheering.]

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 621 words.)

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