Riders To The Sea

“Riders to the Sea” written by J.M Synge portrays the hardships and sufferings of Maurya who lives in the Aryan Island. Often critics identify Maurya with mother Ireland who has been losing her sons due to war, famine, poverty, and diseases.

Maurya is a poor old lady, who once had a full family -a husband, father-in-law, six sons, and two daughters. When the play opens, she has lost all male members of the family except Bartley. Recently her beloved son Michael has died in the sea but his body has not been found. Her daughters Catheleen and Nora know the fact that Michael has been given a clean burial in Donegal. Maurya now fears to lose Bartley, her only remaining son. Bartley comes and says that he wants to sell his horses at a good price in Galway fair. There is only one boat going on that day and there will be no boat for the next 15 days, so he insists that he will cross to the mainland, in spite of winds and high seas. He is a responsible man. He makes a halter out of the rope and hurries to catch the boat. Due to anger Maurya does not bless her son while leaving to the fair. The girls ask her to give him the lunch they had prepared and then bless him on the way.

At this point, Maurya returns terrified with a vision she had had of Michael riding on the grey pony behind Bartley. Now she is sure Bartley will also die. She is so upset that she keeps on talking about her sufferings. Women and men follow bringing the dead body of Bartley who was knocked off a cliff by the grey pony. He fell into the sea and strong waves dashed him on the white rocks.

Maurya is a truly a tragic figure, not suffering from tribal curse or from her own weakness. She is defeated by circumstances. Even in her defeat, she does not curse God. She has great endurance and she consoles herself by saying “No man at all can be living forever, and we must be satisfied”.

Important Questions:

  1. Describe the circumstances of Bartley’s death.
  2. Do you see the difference between the attitude of men and women towards the sea?
  3. Sketch the character of Mauriya.
  4. Discuss “Riders to the Sea” as a unique modern tragedy in one act.