Discuss the role of Maurya in ‘The Riders to the Sea’ as a ‘mother’ and ‘priest.’

Essay by MadaviCollege, UndergraduateA, November 2014

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Riders to the Sea by the Irish playwright J.M Synge is a one act drama, which in essence is a tragedy, yet an unusual one. Unlike in traditional tragedies, the hero(ine) of the play does not put up (or even stand) a fighting chance, but undergoes a character transformation, which is more tragic than the demise of a hero.

Maurya, the main character, is an old woman. Yet, most importantly, she is a mother; a mother of six sons who had all perished in the sea. She had had a difficult time bringing them up, as her husband was also a victim of the sea. Maurya has undergone a great deal of suffering, which makes her an anxious mother during the first half the play.

Like any mother, she too is protective. However, in Maurya's case her protectiveness borders on paranoia. This is evident in her words when Bartley is about to leave for the sea.

"He won't go this day with the wind rising from the south and west. He won't go this day…."

And even though her daughters find her fear to be ravings of "an old woman", they are not without reason. She seems to have the "sixth sense" that mothers have regarding her children, as she sees the vision of Michael riding behind Bartley as he goes off to sea, which is a forewarning of the impending death of Bartley.

"What is the price of a thousand horses against a son where there is one son only?"

Maurya is not concerned about economic interests of life when it comes to family concerns. Like a typical mother, she is oblivious to material aspects of life when opposed to the well-being of her family. She would much rather the family starve for a few days than...