Illustration of Christopher Mahon with a noose around his neck and a woman standing in front of him

The Playboy of the Western World

by J. M. Synge

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What are the themes for The Playboy of the Western World?

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One of the themes in Playboy of The Western World by J M Synge is rebellion, although this doesn't seem obvious at first as we see the characters carefully following church dictates - particularly concerning relationships. Pegeen is a rebel in disagreeing with the church's teaching and not being afraid to say so. Christy is a rebel in the sense that he is prepared to go to extreme lengths to defy generational bondage - even to the extent of killing.The opposite theme of convention is portrayed by Shawn who is laughed at by the other characters because he will not even let himself be seen alone with girlfriend Pegeen until the church gives them permission to marry. The truth is though that nearly everyone in Ireland at that time felt both constrained and reassured by the religio/social mores that defined the boundaries of community and personal behavior.

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