What is the main theme of Juno and Paycock?

2 Answers

coachingcorner's profile pic

coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Poverty is one of the main topics explored in the play 'Juno and the Paycock' by Sean O Casey. At the time that the Irish were fighting for their independence from the grip of English rule, many of the ordinary people lived in squalor in overcrowded tenements without enough to eat. Many would have to steal or beg to get by, or take demeaning work in rat-infested neighbourhoods. The only way out of this grinding misery was through fantasy and many lived through imagining great stories of better lives. Sean O Casey contrasts the lives of these people with those who could afford the luxury of devoting energy to pursuing a 'free state.' Look out for all the references to poverty and imagination throughout the play.

rareynolds's profile pic

rareynolds | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

There are several main themes in O'Casey's play. One has to be poverty, which informs all the actions of the Boyles. It is clear from the play that want of money is a trap that each character is struggling to find a way to escape, either by drink or rebellion. Another theme, of course, is the complex politics of the Irish rebellion of the time and Johnny's decision to betray his friend Robby, which leads ultimately to his own death. While the rebellion on the face of it seems to provide a way to strike back at the economic forces crippling Ireland, in the context of the play it seems to be an excuse for terror and retribution. Another theme is the idea of personal honor or integrity, which all the characters struggle for but all of them (with the possible exception of Juno) sacrifice in one way or another. Finally, it is worth considering the role of women in the play: Mary's rejection by all the male characters when they learn of her pregnancy is of course a shocking example of a double standard; it is also true that the mother, Juno, is the one who saves Mary and seems to find a way out of the "trap" of poverty, not by getting money, but by simply leaving. Hope this helps!