What conflicts are present in John Synge's Riders to the Sea?

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Synge's Riders to the Sea is filled with complex conflicts.  Dominating the lives of the play's Irish peasant characters is fate.  Fate is the sea, fate is an existence that provides no means for a young man to support himself and his family other than travelling on that sea.  Fate is an existence that takes the lives of a mother's husband, father-in-law, and six sons.  Fate is the reality of existence for the play's characters.  It is the natural world that they cannot control and cannot understand.  Other conflicts are also present.  The mother's desire to protect her son clashes with the son's need to be on the sea and travel and engage in meaningful business, for instance.  But the central conflict of the play concerns fate, and it climaxes when Maurya sees Michael's ghost following Bartley on the gray pony and when Bartley's body is brought into the cottage.