What is the relevance of The Playboy of the Western World by J. M. Synge to present times?

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One level on which this text displays relevance to our contemporary social situation (or, to put it more accurately, a way in which we can discover relevance for our times within this play) is to consider the issue of toxic masculinity. This concept refers to the ways in which gender...

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One level on which this text displays relevance to our contemporary social situation (or, to put it more accurately, a way in which we can discover relevance for our times within this play) is to consider the issue of toxic masculinity. This concept refers to the ways in which gender norms become socialized in ways that can become detrimental to positive role modeling or balance in relationships. The valorization of masculine strength and confidence (positive traits) can easily lead to overvaluing their negative extremes such as brutality, aggression, and violence. Similarly, the cultural idea that men are "protectors" of women can be interpreted to mean that men should control women's lives, resulting in extreme groups such as the Promise Keepers. Placing too much emphasis on these negative traits (partly due, perhaps, to a rejection of more recent ideas that men should be more sensitive and nurturing, and women should be more confident and entrepreneurial) expressed by men results in toxic masculinity.

In Synge's play, the villagers admire Christy's manly qualities and are ready to praise him when they think he has murdered his father. The fact that women in the village (like Pegeen and the Widow Quinn) find him attractive indicates they think his capacity for aggression and violence are some desirable. This is an example of how toxic masculinity can be seen in the world of this Irish play, creating a possibility to discuss the play's social norms as they relate to our contemporary American ones.

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The Playboy of the Western World by J. M. Synge describes the rise and fall of the reputation of Christy, the "playboy" of the title. He is initially admired because he claims to have killed his father, and that admiration is reinforced by his confidence and sporting prowess, both of which impress the villagers, both men and women. He eventually falls into disrepute when it is discovered that he did not kill his father.

In a sense the relevance of the play lies in its critique of the villagers admiration of rebelliousness, sporting process, and violence. These are really not good values, and far less important than moral character. Many contemporary subcultures, such as that of US high schools and hiphop, like the villagers of the Aran Islands, often accord high status to the appearance of "toughness" without actually considering whether this is an admirable characteristic. An example of how the playwright shows us that we should not be led to admire Christy is when he has Christy say:

"... it's great luck and company I've won me in the end of time — two fine women fighting for the likes of me — till I'm thinking this night wasn't I a foolish fellow not to kill my father in the years gone by."

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