Discuss the color and number symbolism in Riders to the Sea.
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The colours white and red are prevalent in the play. Consider the redness of the petticoats of the keening women and the white of the flour for bread and also for the timber boards that will fashion the coffin. In terms of numbers consider 3 and the numbers which allude to The Book of Revelation 6.1.8. "and I looked and beheld a pale horse and his name that sat upon him was death" and Exodus 15.1 "The horse and his rider has he thrown into the sea"
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the colour symbolism is very prominent to the theme of the play. first, the red mare and the grey pony. Red obviously symbolizes life or the vibrant flow of life. But bartley is riding the red mare. So the question arises that how does bartley then face a disastrous death. The point here is that Bartley is indeed riding the red mare but is follpwed by the grey pony. Here it is a composite symbol: red cannot be treated in isolation but red followed by grey symbolizes that life would be usurped by death chasing it. Needless to mention, the colour grey symbolizes death.
Then, there is the pig with the black feet. Black obviously symbolizes evil, and the reference to the pig with the black feet presages evil destiny for the maurya household.
it is also interesting to note that though the play is set in the otherwise idyllic setting of the Aran islands, nowher is there any reference to the colour green, symbolising freshness, life and rejuvenation. Throught we are conscious of the unseen presence of the dark sea anf the white foam of the waves splashing on the turbulent surface. This overabundant presence of black and white also reiterate the suggestion of death with which the entire play is replete.
the nuber nine is a constant presence in the play. Michael is lost for the last nine days, Bartley says he'd be back in 2 or 3 or 4 days(2+3+4=9). When the play opens Maurya had already lost six male members of her family, husband, father-in-law and her 4 sturdy sons, and by the time the play ends Michael and Bartley are both gone and she herself says that she won't last after them.(once again nine). Nine is referred to in theology as representing triple trinity, thereby suggesting that the hand of God( ironically) is on the family, that death looms large over all.
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