Riders to the Sea main character Maurya, an old peasant woman, standing on the coast

Riders to the Sea

by J. M. Synge

Start Free Trial

Write a character sketch of Maurya of the play "Riders of the Sea."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Maurya is an old peasant woman living in a rural Aran island. She has two daughters, Cathleen and Nora, and six sons, but only two who are alive, Michael and Bartley. In the story Maurya experienced the death of eight of her male family members, caused by nature’s forces. Michael, one of the remaining sons, is a fisherman just like his brothers and father before him. He is lost at sea and is later found dead. This only comes as proof to Maurya that nature has no remorse. Maurya is a character trying to fight what is inevitable but is finally subdued to accept fate. This is seen when her only remaining son Bartley wishes to depart with a fishing vessel. Maurya attempts to dissuade him but Bartley has made up his mind to leave. On his departure, Maurya has a vision showing her the demise about to come to her son. Soon after, Bartley is brought back home dead and Maurya is left a resigned woman. Maurya is also portrayed as a religious woman as seen when she sprinkles holy water on Michael's clothes and prays to God for his blessings.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Maurya is an peasant woman who has 6 sons, 4 of whom have died at sea.  Michael, one of 2 remaining sons, is also feared dead, as is Bartley, her final son.  Once the deaths of the final 2 sons have been confirmed, Maurya realizes that she has lost every one of the men in her life to the sea, including her husband and his father.

She is a very strong woman who has endured much suffering in her life due to the deaths in her family.  She has remained strong for the rest of her family and has trusted God's plan for her and for her children.  She ultimately is able to find peace with the deaths of her husband and sons because the sea cannot take anymore people from her.  Plus, she realizes that they are all together now in Heaven:

Maurya’s nobility and maturity of spirit enable her to see the good in all of her men now being together. She sprinkles Holy Water over the dead Bartley and asks God’s mercy on the souls of her men, on her own, and, generously, on the souls of everyone left living in the world. (eNotes)

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial