The Playboy of the Western World

Father Figures, Reason, and Gender Roles in The Playboy of the Western World College

J. M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World is a three-act play which follows Christy Mahon’s escape to a rural community of Western Ireland after striking and presumably killing his father. In the small Mayo village, authority presents itself in many facets as an interlocking, linear structure that is both tangible and intangible. Three aspects of the power structure present in the text are patriarchal figures, religious figures, and the community, which are also intertwined with logical conduct and gender stereotypes. Furthermore, Synge depicts momentous and meaningful resistance as only exerted against patriarchal and community forces – religious figures are subjected to a perversion, distortion, or reallocation of their authority.

In Playboy there are three child-father relations for examination: Christy and Old Mahon, Pegeen Mike and Michael Flaherty (Michael James), and Shawn Keogh and Father Reilly. Each relationship represents a different gradient of resistance to paternal oppression, with Christy demonstrating significant defiance. Nothing that either Pegeen or Shawn attempt in the play is remotely comparable to his crime of patricide. Christy’s motivation for doing so, explained in a noticeably more dramatic...

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