Importance of Identity in Anglo - Irish Literature in the Twentieth Century

Importance of Identity in Anglo - Irish Literature in the Twentieth Century

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J. M. Synge is one of the most prominent Irish writers of the twentieth century; his writing characterizes a broad, multifaceted range of political, social and religious anxieties shaping Ireland for the duration of its most remarkable period of change, which transformed the place from a relatively peaceful country to a more political and aggressive location. The picture Synge creates shows us that the question of identity relating to Ireland is problematic; however it has produced and provoked some of the greatest literature of the century. As G. J. Watson has asserted:

"However painful the question of identity may be for the Irish in real life, it has functioned, deeply embedded as it is in the Irish political and literary situation, as a superb catalyst to the production of some of the great art of the century, reaching out of Ireland to the world."

Synge's upbringing was a catalyst for him to explore various tensions in Ireland through his writing. He was born into a family which was firmly grounded in the middle class, was landed and had: ."..produced five bishops since their arrival in Ireland in the seventeenth century." Synge was a secluded man who rooted his plays in community life; paradoxically his plays also explore the notion of isolation:

."..torn between the desire to identify and merge with a community and the desire to assert the distinguishing and defining values of the individual self."

His life and work may consequently be seen as definitive of the circumstances and struggle of the Ascendancy writer in Ireland.

Playboy of the Western World deals with the notion of cultural nationalism; this in itself brings out stereotypes and archetypes - the Irish view of themselves. The Irish a...

... middle of paper ...

...ropensity to be the trademark of personal attributes. Synge shows us the worry between the attraction towards society and towards individuality. Synge may have wanted to be a part of society; however he was never fully integrated; and this is an aspect of his writing we see in Playboy of the Western World through the character of Christy. Synge's use of the language clearly demonstrates his love for it. He shows us how it is in Ireland without mocking it.


Primary Text

Synge, J. M. Playboy of the Western World. Irish Writing in The Twentieth Century. A Reader. Ed D. Pierce. Cork County Press. 2000.

Secondary Text

Watson, G. J. Irish Identity and the Literary Revival. Harper and Row 1979

Innes, C. L Woman and Nation In Irish Literature and Society. Harvester-Wheatsheaf 1993

McDonald, R. Tragedy and Irish Literature. Palgrave 2002

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