The Playboy of the Western World

by

J. M. Synge

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The Playboy of the Western World Themes

Themes and Colors
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Playboy of the Western World, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Heroism

The Playboy of the Western World is a study on the nature of heroism and hero worship, as rough-and-tumble stranger Christy Mahon arrives in a small village in rural Ireland and is quickly deemed a hero, only to lose his status in a matter of hours. The play examines the way in which a hero is created—part myth, part reality—but also questions this process, showing it to be ultimately unstable and arguably quite fickle, at…

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The Power of Language

The Playboy of the Western World is a rich and evocative-sounding play that seeks to highlight the poetry and musicality of Irish English (also known as Hiberno-English)—its rhythms, cadences, and capacity for simile and metaphor. J.M. Synge was committed to rendering Irish English in a way that would do it justice and be considered authentic, an intention that is clear in The Playboy of the Western World. This was part of an overall trend…

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Authority

The Playboy of the Western World is a play of competing authorities. On the one hand, the villagers connected to Michael Flaherty’s pub seem to have their own sense of “what’s right.” But there is also the suggestion of religious authority in the background, coupled with a general suspicion of the police—the “peelers.” The relationship between Christy Mahon and his father, Old Mahon, also reveals a type of authority based on family (and…

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