English Literature » Notes » Juno and the Paycock : A Feministic Play

Juno and the Paycock : A Feministic Play

Like Ibsen and Shaw, Sean O'Casey is also a feminist playwright. His play “End of the Beginning”, “The Shadow of the Gunman” and “Juno and the Paycock” are the three extreme examples of feminism. The reason of his feministic approach is O'Casey’s great admiration for his mother. He led a very miserable life with is mother in slums. His mother nursed him in very poor circumstances. In return he loved her mother very much. Many of his heroines have glimpses of his mother and they are based on the personality of his mother while facing the adversity. O'Casey advocates that we have to give an equal status to women to progress in the modern world. Like other plays of O'Casey “Juno and the Paycock” also projects the theme of feminism that traditionally man flatters woman. In this play Mary and Juno are flattered and dragged down by their circumstances caused by the men. Both worked hard to make both ends meet. While men are irresponsible, careless, coward and drunkard, they are not at all ready to pick up any responsibility or to do any betterment for the sake of home rather they are becoming the case of degeneracy for the home and are adding fuel to the fire. Captain Boyle, the husband of Juno, is a drunkard, careless, irresponsible and a man of straw, having no conscience at all. He has never worked in his life and his only business is to peacock about the clubs and pubs with his friend Joxer Daly. They together boast of nationalism but they never bother about their homes. Captain Boyle is a typical aristocratic figure who does not care about his wife and children. Whenever Juno instigates him and laments him to do work at least for his own sake, he always makes lame excuses and complaints about pain in his legs – the legs with which he can wander round the day.

“Won’t it be a climbin’ job? How d’ye expect me to be able to go up a ladder with these legs? An’, if I get up a self, how am I goin’ to get down agen?”

Men in O'Casey world are impotent and dreamers. They are not realist rather escapist and scared while women are very much realistic and disillusioned. Johnny and Mr. Boyle think that one day Ireland must be free and the days of prosperity will come but women characters, now in the worst circumstance caused by war, suffers most of all in the time of calamity. They have to see … their husband … and sons killed and slaughtered and their lovers burned down. When Robbie Tancred is murdered, it is Mrs. Tancred who suffers behind him. The words of Mrs. Tancred’s lamentation on the death of her son always hurts Juno and she already prays for the life of Johnny.

“Blessed Virgin, … … Sacred Heart o’ Jesus, take away our hearts o’ stone, an’ give us hearts of flesh!”

Juno has to suffer on different grounds. She has a husband who keeps on strutting about from morning till night whereas she has to carry the burden to her whole family. Her son Johnny has lost an arm and has a hip shattered in the war. The daughter, who has turned rebel and is on strike, ultimately gives birth to a child by a schoolteacher, her fiancée. Amid the hell of circumstances Juno has to bear the sufferings of existence, but unlike Captain Boyle, she does not romanticize her son’s exploitation when Johnny drags on his sacrifice for Ireland by saying that he would sacrifice his other arm too because “a principle’s a principle”. Juno speaks bitterly:

“Ah, you lost your best principle, my boy, when you lost your arm:”

Thus O'Casey very beautifully portrays the high status of woman that woman are more realist in their approach to life in general and to war in particular. Here we see, though Juno is an uneducated woman, yet she holds her dignity and shatters the web of idealism attached to war and trade unionism. When Mary emphasizes that “a principle’s a principle” and tries to justify her call on strike, Juno remarks very realistically:

“When the employers sacrifice wan victim, the Trades Unions go wan betther be sacrificin’ a hundred.”

In the country like Ireland which is poverty stricken and war ridden one cannot afford any idealism. Rather the poor have to have the practical approach and must work hard in order to survive and break down the barriers of slavery. We see only Juno is conscious of this fact, when she ask Mary, what will the shopkeeper say when she says to him “a principle’s a principle”. Juno is very conscious of the fact that the miseries of the Irish people are not because of their stars but they are because of their carelessness, misdeeds, romanticism and idealism. That’s why she asks Mary:

“Ah, what can God do agen the’ stupidity o’ men!”

In the play we see that Mary’s suffering are also caused by men. She rejects Jerry Devin because she realizes the fact that Jerry is not a type of man who will stand by her through thick and thin. She realizes Charley Banthem but he deceives her and leaves her desolate and pregnant. Boyle's so called questions of honour awaken only on this movement and he frightens Juno of dangerous consequences if Mary does not leave the house. But in all these circumstances it is only Juno who stands besides her. This shows O'Casey feminine independence. All these leads us to conclude that women in “Juno and the Pacycock” are realist and wiser than men. They have the awareness of life which men lack. This assumption of O'Casey is not based on lie or any idealism. In fact O'Casey wants to stress and evoke women to follow their instinctive feminine good sense and to play their part in the domain of modern life.