Authority Across the Atlantic

Playboy of the Western World shows the appreciation for challenging authority, and how that differs across the Atlantic. Christy Mahon stated that he killed his father as soon as he walked into Pegeen’s shebheen. I honestly thought that she was going to be scared and kick him out of her shebheen, but she let him stay. She wanted to hear his story and felt sympathetic towards him. No one else offered to turn him in at the beginning because they admired his father’s murder, who is an authoritative figure to Christy. Pegeen was not concerned with being arrested for harboring a fugitive, which shows she prioritizes challenging authority than following the law. Playboy of the Western World was written while Ireland was still under British rule. I believe that this play is a testament to how Irish people felt about authority at the time: that they were being wrongfully governed by a far away government. Throughout this play, they talk about the police as if they are distant figures and are not worried about them coming to the shebheen anytime soon. The citizens take matters into their own hands once they find out Christy did not kill his father, furthering that they do not need authority to execute justice. I believe that this reflects how many Irish people felt that they could govern themselves without British rule, which would culminate to their victory in the Anglo-Irish war years later.

However, such challenges to authority did not have the same outcomes in the US. When George confesses his love to Zoe in The Octoroon, he says that they would have to run away to be together because challenging authority here would have more drastic consequences. Zoe could have been killed for marrying the man that she loved, but Pegeen would not have been killed for that. The US government was not distant while the British government was in Ireland. These two plays show that challenging authority means different things in different countries. One could be praised for murder and get away with it in Ireland, while another could not marry the woman they loved if they were a different race without fearing being killed. Overall, I think Playboy of the Western World shows how people expressed their political values and how that is different from similar causes in the US.

One Reply to “Authority Across the Atlantic”

  1. This is a great connection between “Playboy of the Western World” and the rest of the material we’ve studied. I enjoyed how you trace the dominant political feeling in Ireland through the actions of specific characters in the play. Although the play feels very confined to the walls of Pegeen’s shebheen–I kept wondering if we would leave the bar during the movie–the characters are aware of Ireland as a nation, beyond the boundaries of their community. At one point, Sara calls for a toast to the western world, which includes “the juries fill their stomachs selling judgments of the English law.” Ireland’s authority under British rule is not lost on them, even as they seem consumed by Christy’s status as playboy.

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