Captain Boyle is a very stubborn man, but it cannot be said that his obstinacy is his only characteristic. There are many other different aspects to Boyle’s personality such as his jovial and humorous nature, largely presented through his use of language, and including his lazy side revealed by the dramatic techniques used.
Irony is used to highlight how pig-headed he really is when he says ‘Boyle’s able to take of himself’ when actually we know that he clearly isn’t because so long as he continues to reject the idea of getting a job he will always have to rely heavily on others for support. Yet he is so blinded by his own self-importance that he is unable to see this.
We are shown the true extent of Captain Boyle’s stubbornness when he refuses to eat the sausage his wife had cooked for him. There is nothing for him to gain from letting her ‘keep her sassige,’ it is purely a point of misguided principle. But we see how temptation gets the better of him when the stage directions tell us that after ‘a pause’ he ‘takes out sausage, puts it in pan.’ The pause was used to illustrate his indecision and shows us he is not strong willed enough to not eat at all. However, to make a point, he still refrains from eating the one Juno has cooked for him.
As soon as he hears ‘steps are approaching’ his pig-headedness means he ‘whips pan off the fire.’ The verb ‘whip’ is used to convey the sense of urgency felt by Boyle. Desperation is shown when he guiltily tries to hide the proof that Juno had been right about him being hungry because the last thing he wants to do is admit that she was right.
Boyle’s stubbornness causes him ‘to innocently lilt’ just after he hid the evidence of his sausage as he does not want Juno to realise that he had indeed eaten, after insisting that he wouldn’t. These stage directions also show how he is a humorous character as he uses song to try to cover up his actions.
His friendship with Joxer encourages his stubbornness because he persuades Boyle to ‘show some spunk.’ This slang is used so that it is friendly advice, rather than a criticism, which means Boyle will be more likely to take heed of what was said and agree with it. This makes him more resolute to stand up to his wife.
Another form of his defiant nature is revealed when he refuses to concede that he was indeed not really in the navy that long, despite Juno pointing out that this isn’t true and mocking him by saying ‘everybody’s callin you Captain.’ The teasing tone also shows that though his wife is annoyed with him, the chemistry is apparent.
Juno often appears to be angry as a result of his sheer stubbornness, like when he is so adamant that he had not gone to any pubs with Joxer that he continues the lie by saying he could ‘swear that on a prayer-book.’ This use of religious reference by Boyle was used so his claim would seem to be true, which proves that he is desperate not to back down on his claim.
He is also idle, which in a way, reinforces that he is stubborn because he is determined not to work and is ‘constantly signin’. We are told by the stage directions that as soon as he is offered a job, he is continually ‘suddenly catching his thigh.’ This lack of work ethic exasperates Juno, as well as the fact that he conveniently uses the pains in his legs as an excuse.
As well as Boyle being obstinate, Juno makes it clear that she believes him to be ostentatious when she says he is always ‘struttin like a paycock.’ O’Casey repeats this phrase throughout the play to indicate that flamboyancy is a key feature of Boyle’s personality.
This idea that he is not only obstinate but a show-off too, is reiterated by the way he is presented as a self-righteous man when stage directions tell us that ‘his walk is a slow consequential strut.’ We can see that this dramatic technique was chosen to show that he is more than confident, to the point that his cocky.
He is close-minded in his beliefs and shows a stubborn pride when he says he doesn’t want to be ‘beholden to any o the clergy.’ This suggests he thinks that if he has a job and is indebted to the Church, they will be after his money. We are told his voice becomes ‘emotional’ when he declares that they are purely motivated by money and greed, indicating he feels strongly about it.
Stubbornness aside, another characteristic of Boyle is shown when O’Casey uses stage directions to tell us of his ‘tightly cropped moustache’ as this seems to indicate that Boyle does take a little care in trying to be orderly. But on the other hand, the image of his ‘dingy clothes’ conflicts with this idea, leaving us uncertain as to whether he really does have a sense of dignity.
It is impossible to define any person using just one characteristic so while it is true that Captain Boyle’s stubbornness is possibly his biggest trait, it would be a huge underestimation of O’Casey’s talent for writing to assume that that is all there is to his character.