What do the elements like nets, spinning wheel, boards and kneading cake symbolize in Riders to the Sea?

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

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These various elements are all mentioned at the beginning of the play in the stage directions. We need to remember that such items would automatically have helped the audience identify both with the time and the setting of the play. The various items listen both show that this is a family that is dependent on the sea, as the nets indicate, but also that they are a family that is very poor and has to do everything for themselves, as the spinning wheel, kneading cake and boards demonstrate. The tragedy that is going to unfold on this stage will therefore be one that occupies the lives of poor people who are dependent upon the sea for their livelihood and struggle to make ends meet.

It is only as the play develops that we see just how important this relationship between the sea and the characters are, and how this develops through the link between Maurya and the sea as she loses her final son to its power and strength.