Is Bartley a Christ figure in Riders to the Sea? In answering this question, consider the following facts: Bartley's death ironically liberates Maurya from the tyranny of the sea. He goes to the...

Is Bartley a Christ figure in Riders to the Sea?

In answering this question, consider the following facts: Bartley's death ironically liberates Maurya from the tyranny of the sea. He goes to the sea in stubborn defiance of his mother's repeated entreaties because of her premonitions. Bartley being the last male member of Maurya's family, his death salvages the old mother as she accepts the inevitability of death. Bartley could not be given his piece of bread, and the coffin-makers at the end of the play express their surprise that Maurya forgot to buy nails. We all know how bread and nails are long associated with the last supper and the crucifixion.

Asked on by kc4u

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iandavidclark3's profile pic

iandavidclark3 | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

It is possible to see Bartley as a Christ figure in J.M. Synge's Riders to the Sea, and all of the potential examples you reference in your question are excellent reasons to subscribe to the Bartley-as-Christ theory. However, there is at least one important element that goes against this theory that's worth considering: the Christ in the Gospels goes willingly to his death with the full knowledge of what he is about to do and why he is going to do it. Bartley's sacrifice is a little more unwilling, as he is initially heading out to sea to support his family and make a living. Moreover, it seems as though he at least hopes to survive his voyage. This difference is key, as Christ is fully knowledgeable of his sacrifice well before he goes through with it, while Bartley's death seems to be a bit more of a mistake. Of course, that's not to say that the parallels between Christ and Bartley are non-existent, because they're certainly in the narrative. However, it's important to avoid taking the Christ-Bartley relationship too far, as there is a least one key difference between the two figures that destabilizes this relationship in a significant way.  

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think there are definitely elements of the Christ story in this excellent narrative. You might want to think about the way in which Maurya sprinkles holy water on the clothes of her son, which perhaps could be viewed as an echo of the women going to find the body of Jesus and only finding the burial clothes that covered him.

epollock's profile pic

epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Possibly a christ figure, but it is somewhat vague as opposed to the clear references to the old man in The Old Man and the Sea.

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