What's Maurya's attitude towards the sea in J.M Synge's Riders to the Sea?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this excellent play it appears that the sea is almost presented as a character in its own right, rather than just being an inanimate object. It is responsible for the deaths of all of Maurya's son, and as such, she clearly has a very strong reaction towards it. Living on such a secluded, small and isolated island, the sea is how her son's earn their living but also it represents constant danger from the strong storms that wreck ships and drown sailors. Thus it is that at the end of the play Maurya makes this following statement:

They're all gone now, and there isn't anything more the sea can do to me... I'll have no call now to be up crying and praying when the wind breaks from the south, and you can hear the surf is in the east, and the surf is in the west, making a great stir with the two noises, and they hitting one on the other.

From the statement "there isn't anything more the sea can do to me," we can infer that the sea is viewed as an enemy or assailant who has taken everything from Maurya. She can know ironically rest easy when others are praying for their husbands and sons, because the sea is unable to do her any more damage. This is a pitiful and moving speech as we are left with an impression of a womam who has been utterly broken by the sea, so much so that she is beyond being wounded by it any more.

tanvirahsan | Student

In Synge's Riders to the Sea one thing we need to consider in Maurya's character is that she is a heroic fighter here if we agree that the play is a tragedy. The traits of tragic character include suffering and grandeur. The suffering has to be grand in scale comparing to the pain that has been imbued upon. The sea here is the cause of ther pain. In a sense the sea is her opponent. She is trying to turn her dear ones away from from the sea. But, the sea is winning over her in this game. The more she tries to prevent her sons from going to the sea the more they feel that riding on the waves is more important to them than listening to their mother. She even doesn't get much support from her daughters. They also think that a male has hardly any business listening to an old women at home than to go to the sea.  In a round about way the sea is making an old hag of Maurya. Ironically it's Maurya that wins over sea at the last round of gamble but at a very high stake. All her sons are won over by the sea. But as she is left to suffer alone with nothing the sea has nothing left ot pain her anymore. That's where the tragic hero wins over the tragic force in a tragedy. This is the place where Maurya becoems grand - in suffering and also in understanding the essential truth about life "no man at all can be living forever, and we must be satisfied". The sea loses to Maurya's grandeur. She rides over the sea.

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Riders to the Sea

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