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

Riders to the Sea

by J. M. Synge

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What can we learn from the character Maurya in "Riders to the Sea"?

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Maurya's spirit of acceptance is a lesson to be understood and appreciated.  Like all human beings, Maurya lives amongst the pain and suffering in the world.  She lives with the force of the sea mercilessly taking the men in her life.  Amidst this condition of insecurity and doubt, Maurya lives.  Once Bartley is taken, Maura learns how to live with her state of being in the world:

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. I'll have no call now to be going down and getting Holy Water in the dark nights after Samhain, and I won't care what way the sea is when the other women will be keening.

Maura uses the Holy Water to bless the souls of the departed and to receive divine graces in her own life.  The lesson that Maurya teaches is how to possess intense acceptance of a powerless condition in the world. Maurya knows that she cannot defeat the forces of the natural world. In being able to say, "I won't care," Maurya demonstrates a detached quality. She is only human.  Yet, in demonstrating how she accepts her condition of the world, she reveals herself to be almost superhuman. Maurya is one who understands the realities of her consciousness.  She does not rail against that which she cannot control.  The lesson that teachers is how one must make peace with a condition of powerlessness against larger forces.  In this powerlessness, one can find the means to live a life with acceptance and dignity. Maurya comes to the understanding that she is only human.  Yet, in this, she demonstrates an almost detached quality that makes her so much more than what human beings normally are.  It is this lesson of acceptance that becomes something that can be gained from her.

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