Purgatory (1953) is a play written by William Butler Yeats. Purgatory is a drama which only consists of two male characters, Boy and his father, Old Man. They are set outside from an old house which is actually the house where the young Old Man stabbed his own father using the knife he uses to cut food and to kill the Boy. Purgatory represents its specific treatment of class-distinct body through its dialogues, stage, and actor’s properties. The knife is to symbolize the Old Man’s both economical and sexual power over the Boy. It is economical because it represents the situation of man owning property, a knife which extends Old Man’s mental and physical strength to control the body and soul of the weaker who owns nothing, the Boy. The situation which presents Old Man as economically powerful is also symbolized by the appearance of another poverty belong to him, “Grand clothes and maybe a grand horse to ride” (432). Old Man’s economical power and Boy is economical-weakness are presented more thoroughly in the scene of Boy’s failures in taking Old Man’s bundle of money (434). Old Man is presented to have everything when Boy is nothing. Boy is designed as an object to Old Man since he is presented to follow all of the Old Man’s passions and to have nothing at all even his own privilege in controlling himself. Old Man’s asking Boy to “study that tree” and to ”study that house” without replying or giving his attention to Boy’s following opinion are one of the Purgatory’s elements to represent the subjectivity of Old Man over-controlling the Boy’s body and soul. Boy’s body and soul is presented as a place of Old Man to project the image of him as a sinner (he recognizes his error) and even his sexual passion also desire to reach an orgasm by killing Boy;
“My father and my son on the same jack-knife! That finishes- there- there- there- [He stabs again and again. The Window grows dark.]” (435).
That Old Man kills Boy with passion. The play presents the character’s tension of a very strong feeling of satisfaction by “he stabs again and again”. The Old Man which is presented enjoying the sensation of stabbing the Boy’s body is regarded as sexual. Purgatory claims Old Man’s sexual power and desire over the body-without-soul by that stabbing action (put a vital ‘tool’ in and out towards a body). Through that sexual representation, it is Old Man who is presented as a subject who does something to Boy, as an object. Old Man is only satisfying himself but leaving a sorrow to Boy just like the cases of woman who is rapped by a man. It then comes as a representation of how the lower class body is treated sexually yet violently in Purgatory.