“Juno and the The Paycock”


Discuss the causes of the decent of the Boyle family into “chassis”



Consider:


- The personalities of the family


- The social pressures upon them


- The political environment


- Anything else you think of Jordan McCracken


“Juno and The Paycock” is set between 1916 and 1920 at the time of the Civil war in Ireland. The war was between two parties. The difference between the two parties was trivial, and almost insignificant, probably not even worth a fight. They went to war between because of a few words included in a treaty made between one of the parties and England. There were hardly any differences between the parties, they were both of the same faith, all good Catholics. Yet they killed and tortured each other. “…father was against son, brother against brother, girl against her lover; all fighting it out for a cause no one understood and for which very few cared.” This is part of a quotation said by Sean O’ Casey in 1957.


Johnny Boyle has fought in the Civil War, and so it is a big part of his life in this play. He lost his arm and that must be a constant reminder, he also damaged his hip and is probably in pain quite a lot. At the beginning of the play, Johnny feels guilty, he has betrayed Robbie Tancred causing or resulting in his death. Whenever Mary describes in detail the bullet wounds Tancred endured just before he died (“…seven wounds he had- one enterin’ the neck, with an exit wound beneath the left shoulder blade…”). Johnny seems uncomfortable and irritable as he jumps up from the fire quickly and says,


“Oh quit that readin’ for Gods sake! Are yous all losin’ your feelin’s? It’ll soon be that none of yous’ll read anythin’ that’s not about butcherin’!” Johnny doesn’t want to face up to reality about what has happened to Tancred and tries to make Mary feel guilt about jus reading about it.


Even though Johnny has betrayed Tancred, he still is very proud of his achievement. At that time it was great to have a family member involved, it would have been even better if had been yourself. It let people in your community know that you were doing your bit for Ireland and you were on their side. This is illustrated towards the end of Act 1 whenever Bentham (“…a very high opinion of himself generally…”) enters the house, Juno fusses about and nearly as soon as meeting Bentham she tell him about Johnny,


“He was only a chiseleur of a boyscout in Easter week, when he got hit in the hip; and his arm blew off in the fight in O’ Connel Street”. Then whenever Johnny comes in he boastfully says,


“ I’d do it agen, ma, I’d do it again; for a principles a principle”. Although he would probably never do anything like that again, he just says that because it seems like a brave thing to say and also he knows it’s a brave thing to say and also he knows it wouldn’t be possible for him to fight again because of the injury to his hip, and his lost arm.


Johnny is the connection to the Civil War in “Juno and The Paycock”. Johnny is portrayed as one of the herd, and is very passionate about politics, although he probably doesn’t know exactly what he lost his arm for or why young men all over the country are dying, does he care? Johnny is a typical young man at that time, he has been used by people he would have looked up to and has been left with no arm and isn’t able to get on with his life or get a job because of it. It is a waste of his youth.


In juxtaposition to Johnny’s crisis at the beginning of the play, his sister Mary seems quite bubbly and outgoing. She also has an education, and a job. Although like Johnny she has her principles and this is shown in Act 1 when she declares,


“The hour is past now when we’ll ask the employers permission to wear what we like”. But she is different whenever it comes to Bentham and what would please him about her appearance