The Importance of Being a Criminal

Playboy of the Western World and The Informer display similar themes of defying law enforcement, and show its importance in the context of early 1900s Ireland.. Christy Mahon in Playboy of the Western World becomes a hero after his community learns that he killed his father. Pegeen even harbors him to protect him from the police, and falls in love with him throughout the play. She says “any girl would walk her heart out before she’d meet a young man was your like” (Synge), showing that men like him were highly admired in society. Additionally, Gypo Nolan in The Informer shares a similar fame that Christy experienced. Gypo is part of the Revolutionary Organization in Ireland, which gives him favor amongst his community as well. Christy and Gypo are reflections on how the Irish may have felt about law enforcement during the early 1900s. Both plays are set when Ireland is still under British rule, and law enforcement was an extension of the monarchy. Defying law enforcement was admirable in both works because it reinforced their push for independence and their national identity. As we’ve discussed throughout this class, defying laws and social norms was essential to keeping Irish and African American culture alive. Both marginalized communities saw this as a path to social and legal freedom, and those who pursued such paths were admired. Additionally, the consequences of not living up to such heroic images are similar in both works; demonstrating the importance of finding a hero in Irish society. When Christy’s supposedly dead father reappears, the community sees him as a fraud. When Gypo reveals that he informed the police on his comrade’s whereabouts, he is killed. Both works demonstrate the struggle for power and identity in Ireland, and its priority in society. They highlight the consistent search for a hero in the early 1900s as it was needed to establish their identity as a nation.