The the fact that he never even

The
writers of J.M. Synge and James Joyce show authority and the resulting
resistance to this authority in their texts ‘The Playboy of the Western World’ and
‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’. Both texts explore the ways in which
religion can dominate a person’s life and how they are ultimately limited by
this. They also negotiate the authority which parents hold over their children
and how one can reap the rewards of overthrowing this authority. This is especially
clear in ‘The Playboy of the Western World’. The dominant plot in this play is
the oedipal narrative of killing an oppressive father and subsequently
benefitting from it. Christy challenges the authority of his abusive father in
his two attempted murders of him. He commits the ultimate form of rebellion
against authority in these attempts to kill him. There are multiple forms of authoritative
father-figures present in this play. One of the central themes is; do you rebel
against an oppressive father, or do you submit to him? Christy rebels against
his father twice which results in his freedom. Shawn however, never ceases to
seek the approval of Father Reilly. Due to this he has no freedom or
individuality.

 

Throughout
the play, the all-pervasive control of the church is clear. A Christian moral
code is the authority which the people of “the wild coast of mayo” (Synge,
preface) live under. The authority which Father Reilly holds is evident,
despite the fact that he never even graces the stage. This can be seen when
Pegeen is afraid of the dark night and asks Shawn to stay with her. Despite the
insistence of Pegeen and Michael James, “If you’re that afeard, let Shawn Keogh
stop along with you.” (Synge, 102), he declines, fearing the discontent of the
priest. He would rather leave Pegeen alone and afraid than disappoint Father
Reilly. He worries that it would be improper to stay with a woman before they
are wed and that Father Reilly would not approve their request to marry. This
shows the power the priest holds. The fact that the audience never sees him but
he still asserts power shows his control.

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However,
despite the fact that Ireland was devoutly religious during this time period, to
serve their own self-interest, the villagers will often ignore this Christian moral
code. Their attitudes, upon the arrival of Christy Mahon, show a resistance to
the authority of the church. They overlook the fact that he is a murderer. and
celebrate him; painting him as a hero. The women become enamoured with him and
the local girls give him gifts. The worse his tale becomes in a moral sense,
the more he is celebrated. They think it is exciting. They disregard their
Christian values in favour of entertainment. They even go as far as encouraging
a fight between Christy and Old Mahon, regardless of the potential
consequences.

 

Pegeen
also displays a lack of regard for the values for the church and for her
marriage proposal at the sight of Christy. She acts disloyal to Shawn and
conceals the fact that she is to be wed to him. “What would I want wedding so
young?” (Synge, 109).  Even though
at the beginning of Act I she is planning her wedding, she abandons her union
with Shawn in favour of Christy for her own self-interest. There is also an
idea present throughout the play that ignoring religious authority can lead to
experiences of freedom and individuality. This can be seen in Pegeen’s
admiration for Christy, in reference to his crime. It can also be seen is
Christy’s complete disregard for morality when he murders his father in pursuit
of freedom. Shawn never rebels against Father Reilly and by the end of the play
he is still under his control, unlike Christy. Pegeen also rebels against the
authority of her father in her defiance in marrying Shawn. She goes against
Michael James’ wishes and declares that she will marry Christy.

 

Resistance
to authority can also be seen in the land wars. Mayo was at the centre of much
of the land wars in the late eighteen-hundredths. This was a time where
peasants could be seen to rise up against their landlords. They would attack
the landlords and challenge their dubious practices. There is a lot of talk in
this play about this subject. The character of Philly suggests that he would
not be alarmed that Christy had committed a crime in response to the land wars;
“Maybe the land was grabbed from him, and he did what any decent man

would
do.” (Synge, 104). There are also many references to the quasi-military police
force; the peelers. Their authority is clear in the fear the characters have of
them.

 

Religion
can also be seen to operate as an authority in James Joyce’s ‘A Portrait of the
Artist as a Young Man’. The three main types of authority present in this are
text are religious, parental and political. Like in ‘The Playboy of the Western
World’, there is an idea present that with the rejection of authority comes
freedom for self-expression and identity. Through Joyce’s alter ego and the
character of Stephen Dedalus, Joyce displays how these authorities can limit a
young boy in his life. “When the soul of a man is born in this country there
are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of
nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets” (Joyce, 238).

 

Although
each of these authorities have a profound effect on Stephen, nothing controls
his life more than religion. Faith heavily influenced him as a young boy.
Religious authority was present in his community and all around him. The
restrictions that came with Catholicism were deeply embedded in his community
and his family. “Joyce believed that the individuality of the inhabitants of
Dublin had been subsumed in a religion whose moral, political and cultural
influence denied them any opportunity to make choices for themselves” (Akca). This
continued into his school life. It governed every aspect of his early life;

 

“Stephen Dedalus is my name,

Ireland is my nation,

Clongowes is my dwelling place

And heaven my expectation.” (Joyce,
12)

 

He
was sent to the incredibly strict Catholic all-boy boarding school of Clongowes
Wood College. Due to this, he was not able to mature properly. He could not
grow sexually and experience the desires which come with adolescence. Religion
and school repressed this part of him. Subsequently, part of him was awakened
with his experience with the prostitute. With this sexual and intellectual awakening
came his realisation that he had a deep love for emotion and art. In order to
come into his age and grow into the person he was meant to become, he had to
reject the strict religious teachings which surrounded him. If he had not given
into temptation and encountered the prostitute, he may not have realised his
deep love for art. He also may not have fully realised just how much the church
and its teachings were truly restricting him. He grew to the understanding that
in order to have full freedom in art and life and to be the man he wishes to be;
“his destiny was to be elusive of social or religious orders” (Joyce, 188).

 

He
also is deeply repressed by the authority of his parents. He learns opposing moral
lessons from them. The fact that they both hold authority in his life must have
created immense confusion at which opinion to follow. Both of his parents were devoutly
religious which further instilled the religious moral code into Stephen. When
Stephen was offered the role of becoming a priest his mother was overjoyed. She
did not like the idea of Stephen going to college and she held the belief that
the church was the best future for him. However, though it interested him at
first, Stephen grew more and more distant to the idea as he imagined how hollow
his life would be in the priesthood. “The wisdom of the priest’s appeal did not
touch him to the quick.” (Joyce, 188). He knew that it was not the life for
him. He went against his mother’s desires as he knew the best way for him to
learn was out in the real world. “He was destined to learn his own wisdom apart
from others or to learn the wisdom of others himself wandering among the snares
of the world.” (Joyce, 188). He rejected the authority of his mother in favour
of a richer and freer life.

 

His
father, a fierce nationalist, instilled his beliefs unto Stephen. The differing
views on politics within his family and peers affected him and limited him
greatly. The Irish political climate serves as a backdrop for the events of the
text. This is very clear in the continuous impassioned mentions of Charles
Parnell, in how he was praised and then denounced after his affair with Kitty O’Shea.
This can be seen in the character of Dante. From Stephen finding Dante’s “brush
with the green velvet back was for Parnell” (Joyce, 2) to when “Dante had ripped
the green velvet back off the brush that was for Parnell one day with her
scissors and had told him that Parnell was a bad man” (Joyce, 13). Her belief
and subsequent denouncement of him was of great confusion Stephen as he held a
deep belief in Parnell at this age. The ever-changing and contrasting political
beliefs around him affected him greatly from a young age. “It was his first
Christmas dinner”, where he was allowed to sit with the adults, in which he
witnessed the fierce row between Dante and John Casey over Parnell. This debate
is a powerful example of how central the idea of politics was in his life. As
he grew up he began to grow more and more dissatisfied at the political climate
in Ireland. This ultimately resulting in him moving away as he knew he could
not develop fully or have artistic freedom in a country so governed by
political authority.

 

“I will not serve that in which I
no longer believe whether it call itself my home, my fatherland or my church:
and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can
and wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use-
silence, exile and cunning.” (Joyce, 291).

 

It
is clear in this quote how Stephen, or Joyce, was only truly liberated upon his
refusal to adhere to the parental and religious authority which dictated so
much of his life. This text mirrors Synge’s ‘The Playboy of the Western World’
in this way. The characters of Christy and Stephen both had to stand up to the
oppressive authorities which dominated their freedom. These two texts can
provide lessons to their readership on how disobeying unfair command can allow
a person to achieve more than they could ever imagine. In Christy’s resistance
to his father, he was able to start a new life and in Joyce’s resistance to religious
and familial expectations, he was able to begin his artistic journey and
achieve greatness as one of the most influential voices in Irish literature.

 

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