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The Playboy of the Western World

The playboy of the Western World ; a Hero and Women, Rewriting an Old Story


The Playboy of the Western World plays with various myths about heroes like Oedipus, Christ and Cuchulain. The play borrows Oedipus"s parricide and incest motifs and twists them to explore true heroism. The play is original and distinguishes itself from other hero myths in that the female characters are actively involved in creating the hero. Pegeen plays an especially significant role in hero making. She encourages shy and frightened Christy to open up about the episode of killing his father, glamorizes his experience and boosts his ego by praising his appearance and speeches. Not only Pegeen but also Widow Quin and other village girls adore Christy and glamorize his apparent bravery embodied in parricide. What is behind these women"s hero making? Christy seems to be the embodiment of these women"s fantasy and desire for heroes. In Mayo, the old Irish heroism no longer exists and even an able story-teller cannot be found. There does not exist an appropriate outlet for the anger and frustration that they suffer in a male dominated and very closed society. They need a hero who can save them from bleak Mayo life. And Christy, led by the women to be their hero, steps up to the role of the hero and eventually reveals genuine heroic qualities. Act 3 tests what true heroism is and what the conditions to be a hero are. In the beginning of Act 3, Christy wins a sports competition in the village and becomes the so called "the champion of the world." His self-confidence soars enough that he courts Pegeen and wins her father"s approval for marriage. But in that triumphant moment, Old Mahon, Christy"s father, discloses that Christy hasn"t achieved parricide and, that he is a liar as well as a coward. Desperate about losing Pegeen, Christy attempts the second murder of his father. But the people of Mayo who admired Christy"s story of parricide, now abhor his brutality and lynch him. Even Pegeen rejects Christy by bluntly claiming that "there"s a great gap between a glorious story and a dirty deed." The Mayo people no longer accept Christy as a hero because a man using violence to his own father can neither be respected nor allowed in their community. Christy gives up earning the Mayo people"s approval and leading his father, leaves Mayo. He starts a journey toward a new self-hood. Christy who arrives at Mayo like a frightened animal now leaves it as a self-assured man. Pegeen, who has made a hero out of Christy based upon her own fantasy now, makes a genuine hero out of Christy by refusing her fantasy to be real. If Pegeen, who has pledged love with Christy, accepts him as he is in the end, the play would end as only a romantic comedy. It is Pegeen"s rejection of Christy that contributes to make a play a true hero story. But Pegeen, lamenting the loss of Christy, remains in a wretched Mayo life with the very dull Shawn Keogh, her Catholicism obsessed fianc?on the rebound. In the beginning, this play looks very different from Oedipus but in the end, the plays show similarities in that the men leave and the women lead a life of no life. Men become heroes and women become sacrificed. This play builds a new myth form in extending women"s roles in hero making but eventually reveals an old pattern of woman"s sacrifice.

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