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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Hollis Sanders eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The title refers to the line at the end of the play spoken by Pegeen, "I've lost the only playboy of the Western World!" She says this after Christy reconciles with his father and decides to travel with him. Since Christy has decided to better himself and no longer is interested in Pegeen, she is morning the loss of his novelty, as he is a "playboy" no more.

It should be noted that in the time and place of the story, the term "playboy" does not imply the modern association with the word. When the characters of the play refer to a Christy as a "playboy," they are calling him out for being a trickster and lying about the murder of his father. The term can be slightly endearing, as Christy's talent for talking himself up and storytelling can be praised.

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appletrees eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At the end of the play, Pegeen bemoans the loss of her paramour by saying "I've lost him surely! I've lost the only playboy of the Western World!" In saying this she seems to believe her situation is unique and she is the only woman who has ever suffered such a loss. Since she lives in a remote and rural area this may make sense for her. But the irony of the title is that such a situation is very common, indeed universal. These characters, their feelings, thoughts and suffering are part of the universal human experience, and to set any of them apart as unique is commentary upon the potency of such emotions as felt by individuals, and upon the role of drama and literature in expressing these universal emotions in new and memorable ways.

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