In the early quarter of the 20th century men of Ireland struggled for freedom; forming leagues and brotherhoods and secret organizations of resistance, unionizing labor and creating a more cohesive political resistance, arming themselves and training for armed conflict, eventually fighting the English starting in 1916 and later each other in the Irish Civil War until 1924. Even when not involved in some sort of political upheaval, the men of Ireland were seldom at home; if fortunate to find work, they slaved away and often times spent their evenings in pubs. Whatever the source, there has traditionally been a large amount of absenteeism on the part of Irish fathers and men in general. This leaves the mothers of Ireland to rear the children, keep the house and hold the family together through the unceasing barrage of crisis. Time and time again, they were left to sit by and watch as their brothers, sons and husbands went off to die for some reason or another.
[...] Certain lines in the play hint at the Catholic practice of holy communion; of God forgive us, Nora, we're after forgetting his bit of bread,” while others evoke the image of Christ on the cross; . we didn't think of the nails.” One could argue that here, Synge is reminding the people of Ireland of the sacrifice that Christ made to save mankind and that Ireland must make its own sacrifice in order to be free. Having lost all the men in her family, Mauyra at one point turns the tragedy around to become a strength with the lines, “They're all gone now, there isn't anything more the sea can do to me . [...]
[...] The roles played here by women in this play are both the abandoned lover and the mythic inspiration to the romantic notion of sacrifice. This romantic concept of sacrifice would play a major role in the 1916 Uprising where the leaders understood that their revolt could only end in failure but that it might serve to inspire the rest of Ireland into rebellion. When fifteen of the leaders of the Easter Rising were executed, their sacrifice came full circle enraging much of previously neutral Irish citizens into taking up arms against the English. [...]
[...] In his play, Juno and the Paycock, O'Casey bashes not only the nationalists, but he makes a mockery of Irish men with his characterization of Boyle and Joxer. The heroine of the play, Juno, is cursed with a lazy drunkard of a husband who does nothing but contradict himself on every subject and drink with his buddy Joxer who is his parasite of a yes man, leeching off Boyle's family whenever his wife is not around. Boyle refuses to get a job, always having convenient “pains in me whenever there is real work to be done. [...]
[...] Whether it is Yeats' use of an old woman as the mythic Cathleen Ni Houlihan, Synge's portrayal of Mauyra as the grieving mother who has sacrificed everything or O'Casey's tragic story of Juno and her Irish dramatists of the early 20th century used Irish women as vehicles of hope, salvation, strength and survival. The entrenched Irish mentality of the cult like Catholic exhalation of the Virgin Mary draws many parallels to these stories. There is a mysticism in both the immaculate conception and Cathleen Ni Houlihan's wandering preaching of coming change and sacrifice. [...]
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