The Playboy of the Western World

by

J. M. Synge

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Old Mahon / Christy’s Father Character Analysis

Old Mahon is Christy Mahon’s father. Christy thinks that he has killed his father with a blow to the head, and describes him as tyrannical, rude, and a drunk. Before too long, though, Old Mahon turns up at the village pub, looking for his son. His description of Christy is just as disparaging as his son’s of him—he thinks Christy is a loser, too lazy to work, and too shy to speak to women. Old Mahon is hell-bent on revenge against his son for striking him over the head with a loy. He is temporarily convinced that he is mad when he sees the man he thinks is Christy seemingly doing well at sports and confidently enjoying the admiration of the village—which he views as totally out of character for his son. Soon enough, though, he realizes that the popular “playboy of the western world” is Christy and attacks him, receiving another blow to the head. His paternal instincts kick in when the village turns on Christy, leading him to free his son from the ropes that bind him and call on them to leave the “villainy” and “fools” of the small village community. As the father and son depart, Synge hints at one key difference between their old life together and their future. Christy now insists that he will be the “gallant captain” to his father’s “heathen slave,” signaling a possible reversal in which of the two men holds authority over the other.

Old Mahon / Christy’s Father Quotes in The Playboy of the Western World

The The Playboy of the Western World quotes below are all either spoken by Old Mahon / Christy’s Father or refer to Old Mahon / Christy’s Father. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Heroism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of The Playboy of the Western World published in 1993.
Act 1 Quotes

PEGEEN (with a sign to the men to be quiet). You’re only saying it. You did nothing at all. A soft lad the like of you wouldn’t slit the windpipe of a screeching sow.

CHRISTY (offended). You’re not speaking the truth.

PEGEEN (in mock rage). Not speaking the truth, is it? Would you have me knock the head of you with the butt of the broom?

CHRISTY (twisting round on her with a sharp cry of horror). Don’t strike me. I killed my poor father, Tuesday was a week, for doing the like of that.

PEGEEN (with blank amazement). Is it killed your father?

CHRISTY (subsiding). With the help of God I did surely, and that the Holy Immaculate Mother may intercede for his soul.

PHILLY (retreating with Jimmy). There’s a daring fellow.

JIMMY. Oh, glory be to God!

MICHAEL (with great respect). That was a hanging crime, mister honey. You should have had good reason for doing the like of that.

Page Number: 10-11
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2 Quotes

CHRISTY (impressively). With that the sun came out between the cloud and the hill, and it shining green in my face. “God have mercy on your soul,” says he, lifting a scythe; “or on your own,” says I, raising the loy.

SUSAN. That’s a grand story.

HONOR. He tells it lovely.

CHRISTY (flattered and confident, waving bone). He gave a drive with the scythe, and I gave a lep to the east. Then I turned around with my back to the north, and I hit a blow on the ridge of his skull, laid him stretched out, and he split to the knob of his gullet.

[He raises the chicken bone to his Adam’s apple.]

GIRLS (together). Well, you’re a marvel! Oh, God bless you! You’re the lad surely!

Related Symbols: The Loy
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

CHRISTY. I wish to God I was letting on; but I was lonesome all times, and born lonesome, I’m thinking, as the moon of dawn.

[Going to door.]

PEGEEN (puzzled by his talk). Well, it’s a story I’m not understanding at all why you’d be worse than another, Christy Mahon, and you a fine lad with the great savagery to destroy your da.

CHRISTY. It’s little I’m understanding myself, saving only that my heart’s scalded this day, and I going off stretching out the earth between us, the way I’ll not be waking near you another dawn of the year till the two of us do arise to hope or judgment with the saints of God.

Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

CHRISTY. From this out I’ll have no want of company when all sorts is bringing me their food and clothing (he swaggers to the door, tightening his belt), the way they’d set their eyes upon a gallant orphan cleft his father with one blow to the breeches belt. (He opens door, then staggers back.) Saints of glory! Holy angels from the throne of light!

WIDOW QUIN (going over). What ails you?

CHRISTY. It’s the walking spirit of my murdered da!

Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

MAHON. I’d take a mighty oath you didn’t surely, and wasn’t he the laughing joke of every female woman where four baronies meet, the way the girls would stop their weeding if they seen him coming the road to let a roar at him, and call him the looney of Mahon’s.

Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3 Quotes

WIDOW QUIN (taking men to the right stealthily). Do you know what? That mans raving from his wound to-day, for I met him a while since telling a rambling tale of a tinker had him destroyed. Then he heard of Christy’s deed, and he up and says it was his son had cracked his skull. O isn’t madness a fright, for he’ll go killing someone yet, and he thinking it’s the man has struck him so?

JIMMY (entirely convinced). It’s a fright, surely. I knew a party was kicked in the head by a red mare, and he went killing horses a great while, till he eat the insides of a clock and died after.

PHILLY (with suspicion). Did he see Christy?

Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

MAHON (putting his hands to his ears). What in the name of God do they want roaring below?

WIDOW QUIN (with the shade of a smile). They’re cheering a young lad, the champion Playboy of the Western World.

[More cheering.]

MAHON (going to window). It’d split my heart to hear them, and I with pulses in my brain-pan for a week gone by. Is it racing they are?

JIMMY (looking from door). It is then. They are mounting him for the mule race will be run upon the sands. That’s the playboy on the winkered mule.

MAHON (puzzled). That lad, is it? If you said it was a fool he was, I’d have laid a mighty oath he was the likeness of my wandering son (uneasily, putting his hand to his head).

Related Characters: Widow Quin (speaker), Old Mahon / Christy’s Father (speaker), Jimmy Farrell (speaker), Christopher “Christy” Mahon
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

CHRISTY (in low and intense voice). Shut your yelling, for if you’re after making a mighty man of me this day by the power of a lie, you’re setting me now to think if it’s a poor thing to be lonesome, it’s worse maybe to go mixing with the fools of earth.

[Mahon makes a movement towards him.]

CHRISTY (almost shouting). Keep off…lest I do show a blow unto the lot of you would set the guardian angels winking in the clouds above.

[He swings round with a sudden rapid movement and picks up a loy.]

CROWD (half frightened, half amused). He’s going mad! Mind yourselves! Run from the idiot!

CHRISTY. If I am an idiot, I’m after hearing my voice this day saying words would raise the topknot on a poet in a merchant’s town.

Related Symbols: The Loy
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

CHRISTY. Ten thousand blessings upon all that’s here, for you’ve turned me a likely gaffer in the end of all, the way I’ll go romancing through a romping lifetime from this hour to the dawning of the judgment day.

[He goes out.]

MICHAEL. By the will of God, we’ll have peace now for our drinks. Will you draw the porter, Pegeen?

SHAWN (going up to her). It’s a miracle Father Reilly can wed us in the end of all, and we’ll have none to trouble us when his vicious bite is healed.

PEGEEN (hitting him a box on the ear). Quit my sight. (Putting her shawl over her head and breaking out into wild lamentations.) Oh my grief, I’ve lost him surely. I’ve lost the only Playboy of the Western World.

Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Playboy of the Western World LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Playboy of the Western World PDF

Old Mahon / Christy’s Father Character Timeline in The Playboy of the Western World

The timeline below shows where the character Old Mahon / Christy’s Father appears in The Playboy of the Western World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Authority Theme Icon
Christy Mahon comes in, “tired and frightened and dirty.” He addresses the pub: “God save all here!”... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
...She pretends to strike him with a broom, at which he reveals that he killed his “poor father ” a week ago.” The locals are mightily impressed, assuming that he must have had... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Christy explains that his father was “a dirty man…old and crusty, the way I couldn’t put with him at all.”... (full context)
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The Power of Language Theme Icon
Christy insists that this is the first time he’s spoken about killing his father , telling Pegeen that she is “a kindly woman.” He says he’s “seen none the... (full context)
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...moiling, digging” from “dawn till dusk.” His only “joy” was poaching rabbits in the night. His father , continues Christy, was a terrifying drunk who had estranged himself from all of his... (full context)
Act 2
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The girls quiz Christy enthusiastically about whether he is the man who killed his father . Christy confirms this, while secretly trying to re-hang the looking-glass behind his back. The... (full context)
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The Power of Language Theme Icon
Christy describes how his father had recently ordered him to marry a hideous widow, whom he describes as “a walking... (full context)
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The Power of Language Theme Icon
Christy concludes the story: his father had lifted his scythe up above his head and wished Christy “mercy” on his soul.... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...her mood, Christy picks up a loy and tries to tell her again about killing his father . She complains that she’s heard the story “six times” that morning and that, furthermore,... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
...Christy is safe at the pub and that there’s been nothing in the newspapers about his father . Christy is deeply relieved and talks rapturously about having Pegeen’s company from now on. (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
...the “walking spirit” of his father. Widow Quin looks out, seeing only a “tramper.” Old Mahon comes in; Christy hides behind the door. Mahon asks Widow Quin if she has seen... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Mahon takes off his hat and shows Widow Quin his bandaged head. She’s impressed with the... (full context)
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Widow Quin, with one eye on Christy, asks Mahon why his son was “so foolish”—was it because he “was running wild after the girls... (full context)
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Widow Quin gets rid of Mahon by saying she thinks she’s seen the man he’s looking for heading to catch a... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Widow Quin suggests that she and Christy pretend Old Mahon is a “maniac” and not Christy’s father. Susan, Sara, Honor and Nelly run in, calling... (full context)
Act 3
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...village games and sports. As they complain about Christy’s constant bragging about his deed, Old Mahon passes by the window unseen. They wonder what will happen if Mahon’s skull is discovered... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
As Philly and Jimmy talk more generally about skulls, Old Mahon comes in and instructs them to look at his. Triumphantly, he tells them it is... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Widow Quin comes in, shocked to see Mahon again. She fetches Mahon a drink at his request. As he gulps it down, Widow... (full context)
The Power of Language Theme Icon
In an effort to demonstrate Mahon’s supposed madness to Philly and Jimmy, Widow Quin asks him how he is feeling. He... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Widow Quin craftily asks Mahon if his son is “a great hand at racing and lepping and licking the world.”... (full context)
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Mahon wants to go out and watch the mule race about to commence on the sands,... (full context)
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Authority Theme Icon
As Christy is carried on the villagers’ shoulders towards the pub, Mahon is astonished to realize that the race-winner is his own son. Widow Quin grabs Mahon... (full context)
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Mahon comes to agree that he must be mad on account of his head injury. He... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
...race. Christy compares his sporting achievements, saying that they’re nothing compared to how he killed his father . Pegeen ushers the crowd out to let Christy rest; they go off to take... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
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...supported by Shawn. He heaps praise on Christy but also chastises him for not giving his father a “decent” Christian burial. Michael slaps him on the back, saying that married men will... (full context)
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Just then, Mahon rushes into the pub, followed by the crowd (including Widow Quin). He runs at Christy... (full context)
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...and chasing northward in a sweat of fear.” Though Christy pleads with her, she tells Mahon to take him away; she doesn’t want “the world” to see her “raging for a... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Christy becomes increasingly desperate, realizing that no one will help him—not even Widow Quin. Mahon tries to grab Christy, who tells him to “leave me go.” The crowd is bloodthirsty... (full context)
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Christy chases Mahon out of the pub with the loy. After a great noise and “a yell” outside,... (full context)
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The men come back in. Philly confirms to Michael that Mahon is dead. Michael, fearing that the murder will get him and his community in trouble... (full context)
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Mahon, still alive, crawls back into the pub. Christy, also on his knees, asks his father... (full context)
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Mahon loosens the rope around Christy, insisting that they will be “going on our own way... (full context)