The play, “Juno and Paycock”, by Sean O’ Casey is another comparative text I have studied under the theme of poverty. It is set in the inner city of Dublin during the Irish Civil War. It centres on how does the poverty affect the Boyle family members living in a two-room tenancy in a tenement house at the time of when Dublin had some of the worst slums in Europe. The key moment of the play which draws my attention to the chosen theme is the scene where Juno Boyle told her husband, Jack “Captain” Boyle, to take his breakfast when he finally comes back home one morning near the opening of the play. In this scene, “Captain” Boyle supposedly comes back home from a pub late in the morning with his parasitical friend, Joxer Daly, and Juno is supposed to be going to work but stays behind to ensure that Joxer wouldn’t eat their scarce supply of food. She succeeds in getting rid of him and ensuring her husband to eat well “Here, sit down an’ take your breakfast - it may be the last you’ll get, for I don’t know where the next is goin’ to come from.” This portrays how dire is the poverty the family lives in. In such poverty, there is always a risk of families having no food to provide for themselves in a time or another. This is unsurprising because Mrs Boyle is the only member of the play who is employed. Her adult children, Mary and Johnny, are unemployed like their father. Mary is on strike “for a principle” and therefore is unemployed. Johnny lost his right arm during the Irish struggle of Independence and is mentally disabled soon after and therefore is unable to work. This indulges into Juno’s pressure to provide for the family especially at the fact that her husband is too idle to work. He apparently does “more work with a knife an’ fork than ever”. She eventually comes into a crisis which occurs at the beginning where she worries about her shopkeeper not giving her any more food on credit “What’ll we do if he refuses to give us any more on tick?”. The reason for choosing this key moment to convey the theme of poverty in the play is that it shows that the family is so obviously poor that Juno is concerned about Boyle having Joxer eat the food Juno has been “slavin’ to” provide for the family and we can see that Juno quickly replaces the sausage in the press when Jack tells her that he isn’t hungry. This indicates that Juno is trying to save up some food for later. Also she is shown to be displeased about her husband having no job when she is cynical about him going to drink in a pub and him claiming to have pains in his leg. She even throws insults to him such as “you couldn’t pull a wing out of a dead bee.” which is a reasonable act considering that he should be the man of the family and in a position to work hard to feed his family, not his wife. This can be seen when Jerry, the man who shows up at Boyles’ house, is looking for Boyle so that he announces that there is a job opening for him, Juno tells him that he can’t be anywhere other than in “some snug or another.” with apparent exasperation. Overall, it’s the poverty that causes such dull atmosphere in this scene. b)
After reading both comparative texts, I find that a variety of different aspects of the theme of poverty has been shown in those texts. It includes financial material, financial deprivation, social, emotional and educational
The conveyance of the theme of poverty is more obvious in “Juno and the Paycock” than in “Brooklyn” materially at the beginning because it includes more aspects of poverty than in “Brooklyn”. Both texts contrasts in material poverty. In Juno and the Paycock, a family of four lives in a cramped two-room tenancy in a tenement house where has minimal furniture. An open coal fire provides the only heat and the only method for cooking. There is “a small bed party concealed by cretonne hangings, strung on a twine”. There is a galvanised bath in the corner providing the only source of washing. Turning to “Brooklyn”, Lacey’s family’s humble house on Friary Street, Enniscorthy, with its upstairs living room and downstairs kitchen, is almost luxurious when compared with the cramped and basic tenement flat which the Boyle family calls home. A closer comparison can be drawn between the Boyle’s poor living conditions and the small apartment in New York, where Tony Fiorello lives with his family in the novel “Brooklyn”. There, Eilis is surprised, to find on her first visit to her boyfriend’s family’s home that there is only one bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen with a bed discreetly covered in the corner during the day. The little table in the
kitchen is set for seven people. This appears to be too cramp considering that it is a home to a family of six.
Financial deprivation is the most obvious aspect of poverty as it always causes other aspects of poverty to occur directly or indirectly especially in the texts I have studied. In Juno and the Paycock, “Captain” Boyle “wore out the Health Insurance long ago, he’s afther wearin’ out the unemployment dole” and, unless he has a job, he is now a dependent of his wife for the income as a result. Juno appears to have a menial job, therefore bringing in very little money. Even though it’s very little, it’s the only wage coming into the house. Such poverty causes their daughter, Mary, to try to escape it by going out with a man of better means. She considers Jerry’s good job prospect not good enough for her. Instead, as discovered later in the play, Mary goes with Bentham, a national teacher and training solicitor for the obvious reason. This indicates that Mary is socially poor as well since she attempts to “get off” with very well-educated Bentham ignoring Jerry who, unlike him, actually shows love for her. Similarly, in Brooklyn, Eilis’s sister, Rose, brings in the only wage for the household. Their mother’s small pension doesn’t count much. Unlike Juno, Rose has a responsible job and she therefore brings in more money than the family could ever need to survive. This can be seen from the beginning when Rose gives Eilis money for the cinema. Nevertheless, it’s the financial poverty that makes Rose arrange for Eilis’s emigration to the United States where, they believe, is the place of dream and success. A closer comparison may be drawn between Rose in “Brooklyn” and Mary in “Juno and the Payock”. Here, when Eilis sends her sister the letter saying that she has a boyfriend, all Rose wants to know about him is his profession expecting him to have a office job, which portrays Rose’s hope for Eilis to have a better life than they could ever have in Enniscorthy. Eilis tries to avoid telling her that her boyfriend is actually a plumber when she mentions it down in the middle of a paragraph hoping Rose not to notice it. Emotional and educational poverty can also been seen in both texts. In Brooklyn, Jim Farrell, a wealthy local boy who falls in love with Eilis when she returns to Ireland for a while, is emotionally poor as he appears to have difficulty in expressing his love towards Eilis. It’s until their mutual friend, Nancy, tells her that she discovers he likes her. Yet both characters appears more educated than most of other characters from both texts. In contrast, Tony Fiorello from “Brooklyn” is educationally poor and this can be shown when he convinces Eilis that his younger brother Frank is “the brain of the family” during the dinner with Tony’s family in their apartment while he is emotionally capable as he constantly expresses his love for Eilis throughout the novel. Juno from “Juno and the Paycock” is also educationally poor when she knows nothing and is curious about “Consols” and Bentham’s religion when he declares that he is a theosophist while emotionally strong as she cares about his children and even her husband who, she convinces herself, isn’t who he is as he is influenced by Joxer. She believes that if she ends their friendship then Boyle could have gotten a job instantly. Albeit she fails to see it, she is shown to be very determined. Lastly, and most importantly, I find that exploitation is the most effective aspect of poverty in both texts. All characters who possess a certain aspect of poverty are used throughout both texts. For instance, in Juno and the Paycock, Mary’s brother, Johnny, has been injured in the 1916 Rebellion - a rebellion that that had little to do with the alleviation of poverty; and later he is also injured during the Irish Civil War fighting for another cause that had nothing to do with poverty. Sadly Johnny, because he is poor, does what what the poor always tend to be: strike out at any symbol of authority. His life is basically destroyed fighting for a cause which would leave him no better off. It’s probably true that modern extreme Irish republicans find its cannon fodder in the slums and deprived areas of society. This proves that the exploitation of the poor is that some things never change regardless even the change of authority. Similarly in Brooklyn, Jim Farrell is easily exploitable. Nancy, knowing about him liking Eilis, arranges a trip for her, her fiancé George Sheridan, Eilis and Jim to the beach in Curraloe. Eilis is unaware of Jim’s participation to the trip and is soon told about him by Nancy. Eilis decides to keep secret about his marriage with Tony back in New York and let on with Jim. This eventually leads them to be closer than ever before and tag along together with Nancy and George to everywhere including to the dancing where Eilis kisses Jim in private afterwards. Eilis’s move on Jim leads him to invite her to meet his family out in the country, the same move Tony did with her earlier in the novel. He even offers to drive Eilis and
her mother to Nancy and George’s wedding. There, comes the romantic scene of both of them at the beach late in the evening after the reception where they watch the stars above and kiss each other. Eilis believes she could be successful in going out with him and this stays on until Miss Kelly tells her that she knows about her marriage with Tony as she discovers it from her cousin Mrs Kehoe in Brooklyn whose boarding house Eilis stays during her time in New York. Eilis is stunned and quickly drops everything and go back to America once again to be with her husband. She doesn’t even say goodbye to Jim and she instead sends him a note letting him know of her departure. At this point, she knows that this would upset him. Hence he is very unfortunate emotionally but fortunate financially and yet exploited for his weakness.