What are the main ideas and themes of "Riders to the Sea" by John Synge?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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"Riders to the Sea" by John Synge is a play about peasant life in the Aran islands of the western coast of Ireland. The play is not overtly ideological, but does give a heart-wrenching vision of the lives of poor, Roman Catholic Irish fisherfolk, who are dependent on the sea for their livelihood. 

The first major theme we encounter is the implacability of nature. Eight men in the family have died from drowning. Synge shows how this experience, typical of the area, shapes the religious and philosophical beliefs of the characters in the play, leading them to a sort of stoical fatalism. Although they are portrayed as turning to religion for solace, religion is not shown as actually offering consolation, but rather encouraging resignation to their fate and a sort of passivity in face of their struggles. 

Another major theme we find is an association of women with endurance in the face of suffering. 


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