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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Who is Bartley addressing in Riders to the Sea, and where is he going?

"I'll have an hour to go down, and you'll see me coming again in two days, or in three days, or maybe in four days if the wind is bad."

Quick answer:

In these lines from Riders to the Sea, Bartley is addressing Nora, and he is going to a horse fair in Galway.

Expert Answers

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Bartley sets off on the storm-tossed sea to travel from the island where he lives to go to Galway, a city in Western Ireland. At the beginning of the play, Cathleen and Nora talk about "the young priest," and Cathleen asks, "Did you ask him would he stop Bartley going this day with the horses to the Galway fair?" As such, it is clear that Bartley intends to embark on a passing ship for mainland Ireland in order to attend this occasion.

Right before he delivers the lines you quoted, Bartley asks Nora, "Is she coming to the pier?" The ship he intends to depart on is quickly coming in to dock at their island, and Bartley must hurry if he wishes to catch it. He continues to address Nora as he gives the lines you have quoted. Throughout the conversation that ensues after Bartley's entrance, he largely ignores Maurya and only speaks to his sisters, Cathleen and Nora. Maurya comments on this after Bartley tells Nora when to expect him back, saying, "Isn't it a hard and cruel man won't hear a word from an old woman, and she holding him from the sea?" Maurya is upset both by her son's insistence on traveling during the storm and his refusal to listen to her advice. Bartley addresses Nora rather than his mother because he intends to head out for Galway regardless of the weather and does not want to be stopped by Maurya and her more cautious view.

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