The Playboy of the Western World

by

J. M. Synge

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The Loy Symbol Icon

A loy is a type of narrow spade traditionally used in Ireland for cultivating potatoes, an important crop on the island. As such, it represents Irish rural life and in particular the type of repetitive manual labor involved for inhabitants of the Irish countryside at the time of the play’s setting. It is with a loy that Christy Mahon thinks that he kills his father, Old Mahon, by striking him over the head. The loy, then, is a stand-in for Christy’s frustration at the drudgery and oppression of his former life, going from field to field with his tyrannical father. The humble farming implement thus transforms from a symbol of the mundane to a symbol of escape. The characters at the pub who hear Christy’s story—Peggy Mike, Michael Flaherty, and others—are impressed not just by Christy’s deed but the particular way in which he did it. They perceive a kind of bravery in Christy’s willingness to take his destiny into his own hands, which is linked to his use of the loy as opposed to a gun or a knife—more conventional weapons. When Mahon returns—not dead, just wounded—to find Christy, his son again strikes him with a loy, trying to inflict the fatal blow that he had failed to deal earlier. In this sense, then, the loy also shows Christy’s persistence in wanting to forge a new life for himself, the repetition of the method in the attempted killing echoing the repetitiveness of the loy’s usual agricultural function.

The Loy Quotes in The Playboy of the Western World

The The Playboy of the Western World quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Loy. 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 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:
Act 3 Quotes

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:

PEGEEN. I’ll say, a strange man is a marvel, with his mighty talk; but what’s a squabble in your back-yard, and the blow of a loy, have taught me that there’s a great gap between a gallous story and a dirty deed. (To Men.) Take him on from this, or the lot of us will be likely put on trial for his deed to-day.

CHRISTY (with horror in his voice). And it’s yourself will send me off, to have a horny-fingered hangman hitching his bloody slip-knots at the butt of my ear.

Related Characters: Christopher “Christy” Mahon (speaker), Pegeen Mike (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Loy
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Loy Symbol Timeline in The Playboy of the Western World

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Loy appears in The Playboy of the Western World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
...his father. Christy tells them that he hit his father over the head with a loy in a potato field and then buried him. Michael asks where Christy killed him, to... (full context)
Act 2
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...his soul. Then, the fight ensued, with Christy quickly dealing the fatal blow using his loy. As he tells this, he uses the chicken bone as a prop. The girls call... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...to complete tasks around the pub. Trying to soften her mood, Christy picks up a loy and tries to tell her again about killing his father. She complains that she’s heard... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
...wants to “destroy him for breaking the head on me with the clout of a loy.” (full context)
Act 3
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
...at his. Triumphantly, he tells them it is the result of a blow from a loy by his own son, arousing Philly’s suspicion. Mahon explains that he has been receiving food... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
...do it. Michael, annoyed by Shawn’s cowardice, pushes him towards Christy. Christy picks up a loy, causing Shawn to run out of the pub. (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...“leave me go.” The crowd is bloodthirsty for them to fight. Christy picks up a loy, threatening “a blow” that would “set the guardian angels winking in the clouds above.” The... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Christy chases Mahon out of the pub with the loy. After a great noise and “a yell” outside, Christy comes back in. Widow Quin hurries... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
...his mighty talk; but what’s a squabble in your back-yard and the blow of a loy, have taught me that there’s a great gap between a gallous story and a dirty... (full context)