Juno And The Paycock Essay
It is evident that the theme of unhappy families is central to O’ Casey’s play Juno and the Paycock. Each of the characters suffer misery and hardship. This theme is nowhere more evident than in the characters themselves. The main characters in this play are Juno, Jack, Mary and Johnny. Juno is the mother of this unhappy family and her husband Jack Boyle gives a commonplace explanation for the origin of her name. She was born in June; he met her in June; they were married in June and Johnny was born in June.
However, Juno was also the name of the goddess wife of Jupiter, king of the gods.In 1922, a wife’s role was very much inferior to her husband’s. She was expected to love, honour and obey. Juno would have been happy with such a position had her spouse kept his side of the agreement. Jack Boyle had reneged on his duties as husband and father and this is certainly one of the main contributions to such and unhappy family. His unwillingness to work and provide for his family, has forced Juno to take on his task, as well as her own.
In doing so she has aged more than her years, losing much of her youthful beauty;Twenty years ago she must have been a pretty woman; but her face has now assumed that look which ultimately settles down upon the faces of the women of the working class; a look of listless monotony and harassed anxiety, blending with an expression of mechanical resistance. Were circumstances favourable, she would probably be a handsome, active and clever woman. 1 Juno’s relationship with Boyle has also changed. There is too much contempt on her side for her lazy, shiftless husband to leave much room for respect of affection.Significantly, there is not one sign of tenderness toward each other throughout the play. We also see a change in Juno’s character.
In act one she is a nagging wife, continually complaining and often sarcastic. In act two Juno is transformed. The prospect of the inheritance allows Jack to assume the part of breadwinner and relive Juno of the burden. She can, therefore step back and allow him to dominate the household. In act three Juno is forced to take control again, and her relationship with her husband is once more soured and bitter by his refusal to act as head of the family. The announcement of Mary’s pregnancy brings matters to crisis point.
When Boyle rejects his daughter, Juno warns him it will be the end for them. Also, read Night of the Scorpion questions and answersHe fails to heed her warning and so she leaves, to live with Mary and her sister’s house, finally terminating their marriage and the family. The next unhappy character is Jack Boyle.
He’s a major comic character and also the most irresponsible. Jack Boyle cannot point to a single achievement, since he has done nothing with his real life. The poverty and degradation associated with tenement living broke the spirit of many men. To cope with the hardship they had to endure, many sought ways of escape. Drink, of course, was the most common refuge. But for Jack Boyle his frequent visits to the pub were not enough.
To escape the ignominy of his existence he turned his back on reality and lived in a world of pretence. By posing as an old retired sea captain, who had lived an adventurous life. Boyle felt that he could restore his own self-respect. Juno does not take part in this fantasy and quickly brings Jack back to reality. She reminds him that his only maritime experience was a journey on a coal ship travelling between Dublin and Liverpool. Joxer Daly however is the opposite and supports Jack in his fantasy.
Joxer, who for a few drinks would ponder Jack’s fantasies and address him as captain.Boyle’s posturing is also ludicrous. No one believes in his sea faring stories. Boyle is a monster of selfishness.
He shows no thought or concern for anyone but himself. As a husband he is completely irresponsible. He contributes nothing to the family income because he is unemployed. When he is offered a job he does all he can to avoid getting the position. As a father, Boyle is also a complete failure.
His son’s terrible disabilities do not arouse his pity. When Johnny is terror- stricken by the apparition in act two he shows no concern, other than a cowardly unwillingness to check the bedroom.Mary’s pregnancy in act three shows him at his most selfish. He has no care for his daughter but instead talks of putting her out of the home. Yet, what has most upset him is not Mary’s ‘immorality’ but he prospect of being disgraced as her father, in the eyes of Joxer and his neighbours.
Its clear that drink is a major factor for the unhappiness of the family. Boyle’s fondness for drinking is very obvious throughout. He first appears on stage after a visit to Foley’s, where he has spent the morning drinking with Joxer. When he receives the good news of the will his first thought is for ‘a wet’ as he calls it.In act two he has the means to indulge himself.
We see him celebrating his good fortune with a bottle of whiskey. When act three begins he is still in bed at six in the day recovering from a drinking session the night before. His first thought on waking is to have a bottle of stout. Later, he turns his back on the family to go to the pub with Joxer. Our last sight of him is lying in a drunken stupor on the stage.
Juno’s daughter, Mary, resembles her parents in many of her characteristics. From her mother she has inherited her good looks, which make her so attractive to both Gerry Devine and Charles Bentham.Like her mother, Mary, too is a worker who has helped to support men folk in the Boyle family also Mary’s spirit, which makes her a fighter for workers’, rights and an enthusiastic member of her trade union. On the other hand, her vanity reveals her fathers genes. It is seen in her fondness to ribbons and fine clothes; (Tying a ribbon fillet wise around her head).
I don’t like this ribbon, ma; I think that I’ll wear the green-it looks betther than the blue. 3 No doubt, too that it makes her more susceptible to the charms of a “Mickey Dazzler” like Bentham.Now twenty-two, Mary is very much a product of her environment. She has lacked opportunity for advancement and received only the minimum of schooling. She is, however very ambitious.
She has looked to the trade union movement to advance herself while also trying to overcome the deficiencies in her education by reading modern, even radical authors, like Ibsen. These books also attracted her to Charles Bentham a man who has rejected traditional religion in favour of theosophy. Mary is unhappy, she is a victim of her own feelings, which lead her to fall in live with the worthless Charlie Bentham.For him she rejects the more solid Gerry Devine, a more suitable match since he is from the same social background. Instead she gives herself completely to the better dressed and better-spoken school teacher, only to be deserted by him in her greatest hour of need.
In the narrow-minded moral climate if 1922, unmarried motherhood was regarded as disgraceful, so much so that to Boyle, Mary’s pregnancy is worse than consumption, than a killer disease. In the face of such disasters, Mary’s strength crumbles. She has her mother to stand by her, and Mary is totally dependant on Juno.Significantly her views have become more conventional even though ironically, she is now a social outcast. The proud feminism of act one has disappeared. She becomes aware of the fact that her unborn child will have no father.
It’s Juno who’s left to console her that her child will have whats better two mothers. My son, Mr. Bentham; he’s after goin’ through the mill. He was only a chisel of a boy scout in Easter week, when he got hit in the hip; and his arm was blown off in the fight of O’Connell Street. 4 This is how Juno introduces her son Johnny, to Mr. Bentham.
She speaks proudly of how he has fought bravely for his country and paid dearly for it. It’s true however that Johnny is far from heroic. When Johnny is first introduced, we notice ‘the tremulous look of indefinite fear in his eyes’. He finds any reference to bloodshed upsetting; he complains fretfully about being left alone.
A knock on the door frightens him. Like a child he calls for a drink of water and is bad-tempered with Juno when she offers to make him ‘a cup of tea’ . Like Jack, Johnny shows little love for anyone else. He is ungrateful and unappreciative of Juno’s efforts on his behalf.
When he is told about Mrs. Tancred and later, when Mrs. Tancred passes, he is unsympathetic, though he and the murdered man were once friends and comrades. He has no respect for his father, for which we might excuse him, but his condemnation of Mary is much harder to condone. Johnny has betrayed a former commandant, Tancred.
His treachery causes him intense guilt. He is always tense and takes it out on other member of the family. The visit of thmobilizerer at the end of act two, shows us the forces of justice closing in on Johnny. His end is pathetic.Despite his crippled state, his wounds for Ireland, he is dragged off to die ignominiously, killed by his own comrades.
It is clear that O’Casey successfully depicts the theme of unhappy families in the play.Poverty, selfishness and misjudgement are evident in most of the characters. Jack Boyle lives in a fantasy world and takes on no responsibilities. Johnny Boyle is a cripple who is selfish and unhelpful. Mary lacks good judgement and Juno is the only character who is holding the family together. It is clear that the play depicts the theme of unhappy families through the characters.