“ Riders To The Sea” By J.M Synge
- Published: 1903
- Performed: 1904 in Dublin
- Genre: One Act Play
- Setting: The play is set on the Aran Island of the setting of the west coast of Ireland
- Maurya – The main protagonist. She is an old woman who always laments for the death of her male family members and fears losing her last remaining son, Bartley.
- Cathleen: Maurya’s older daughter who is almost 20 years old.
- Nora: Maurya’s younger daughter.
- Bartley: Maurya’s last remaining son who also died by drowning.
- Maurya’s dead sons: Shawn, Sheamus, Stephan, Patch, Michael.
- Maurya’s dead husband and father-in-law.
- Various Men and Women.
- Young Priest.
- The conflict between nature and human beings in which nature triumphs over human life.
- Nature and force of nature depicted as a magisterial force that remorselessly exceeds all life.
- The author wants to highlight the Irish peasant life, their struggle, the Irish folklore, and their language.
- The writer depicts the actual life of the islanders or the people of the island who extract their sustenance from the sea or who are entirely dependent on the sea for their daily living. However, things go worse when the sustainer (which is the sea) turns to be a destroyer.
- The title of ‘Riders To The Sea ‘ itself suggests the theme of the play which is the conflict between human beings and the mighty sea. It is also said that the sea is the powerful horse and the fisherman of the Aran Islands are its riders who constantly make efforts to take on this mighty force but always lose and pay for their arrogance by death. Thus here Synge makes one point clear that human beings are helpless in the hands of natural forces.
A short Summary
Riders To The Sea By J.M. Synge’s summary can be written in a simple way. Maurya is the main protagonist of this play. She is a poor old lady, who once had a full family-a husband, father-in-law, six sons, and two daughters. The play starts, she has lost all-male characters in her family but Bartley is alive. Her son Michael has died in the sea recently however, his body has not been found. Her daughters Cathleen and Nora know the fact that Michael has been given a clean burial in Donegal. Now Maurya fears losing Bartley because he was the remaining son or male family member of her. Bartley says that he wants to sell his horses at a good price in Galway to get some money.
There is just one boat heading to Galway on that day and for fifteen days there will be no boat. So he says that he will cross to the mainland, despite the winds and high seas. He is a very responsible man. He creates a halter out of the rope and egg to catch the boat. As a practical lady Maurya does not bless her son while leaving for the fair because she was angry and afraid. The girls tell Maurya to give lunch they had prepared for Cathleen and Nora then blesses him on the way.
At this moment, Maurya returns panicky with a vision she had had of Michael riding on the grey pony behind Bartley. Currently, she is sure that Bartley will die. She is so upset that she keeps on talking about her sufferings. Male and female follow to bring the corpse of Bartley who was knocked off a precipice by the grey pony. He fell into the ocean and robust waves broke him on the white rocks.
at The End
Maurya is actually a pathetic figure. She is not suffering from the tribal band or from her own weakness. Maurya is defeated by circumstances and does not curse God even in the worst. She has nice endurance and at last, also sprinkles holy water on the dead body of Bartley. Also, she consoles herself by saying “No man at all can be living forever, and we must be satisfied”. She thinks God has nothing to take from her. At the end of the play, she prays for her husband, father in law and all sons.