What are the themes in The Playboy of the Western World by J. M. Synge?

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The primary themes of The Playboy of the Western World on the literal level are the Oedipus Complex reversed, the difficulty of growing up, and the power of rumor over information. On a metaphorical level, the challenge of rebellion to colonial tyranny is strongly suggested.

The crux of the play is that Christy, the protagonist, thinks he has committed patricide but has not. In the classic Oedipus play, Oedipus did kill his father but did not know it. Christy attacked his bully father, then ran off thinking he had killed him. Finding refuge in the pub, he shares the tale with the villagers, who construct a myth around his exploits. Ultimately, when the father appears decidedly non-dead, Christy’s failure is revealed. Unlike Oedipus, Christy did not marry his mother. However, his acceptance as a leader and hero in the community can be taken as a social marriage, although not a sexual relationship, and through his actions he does win Pegeen.

Growing up involves not just Christy but Pegeen...

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