Aran Islands & Irish Life in Riders To The Sea

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Riders to the Sea as an Irish Drama

      Synge made an attempt to travel the Aran Islands on the advice of W.B. Yeats. The very first journey to the fairy-land, gave him such an ecstasy that he visited the place five times between 1898 and 1902. The Aran Islands, (the full-fledged description of the place) is the first book written by Synge. Later, most of the works, captured the comic life of the people, whereas Riders to the Sea, depicts the darker side of the Islanders.

      Geographically, the Aran Island is divided into—three Islands—Irishmore, Inisher, and Inishmaan. The location of Riders to the Sea, is Inishmaan.

Profession of Inhabitants

      Synge saw the life of the Islanders as a perpetual drama of struggle and suffering-free of corrupt sophisticated town life. But it has some disadvantages too, as he wrote, later; “....their remoteness and simplicity deprive them from benefits of modern science....” so, they kept on the same job, which is hazardous and uncertain. Besides fishing and farming, people were also involved in horse selling business in the market of Mainland, which is on the other side of the sea and even the stormy sea cannot alter the decisions, of, the young man as we see in the Case of Bartley in Riders to the Sea.

      A brief comment by Synge, make us aware of the Islander’s pursuit “The sons who are at home stay out fishing whenever it is tolerably calm, from three in the morning till after midnight, yet they earn little, as fish are not plentiful....

      “The old man fishes with a long, rod and ground-bait...with very little success....women look after calves and do spinning.”

Handling of Irish Diction

      The tragic effect of the play is heightened by his application of Islander’s prose quite effectively. David Daiches remarks; “...Riders to the Sea is a remarkable dramatic presentation of an elegiac situation redeemed from false pathos by the elemental dignity achieved by the Language.” Short sentences have an immediate effect on the audience as well as the living music. Mark, for example, the following speech of Maurya, “It’s little the like of him knows of the sea. Bartley will be lost now and let you call in Eamon and make me a good coffin out of the White boards, for I won't’ live after them.”

      Professor Nicoll rightly remarks that there is exquisite music here, a music that works upon our senses and charms us...”

Deep Study on the Life of the Aran Islands

      The very setting of the play in an Island off the west of Ireland, suggests' us its regional quality. During one of his visits in Paris, Synge met with W.B. Yeats, who finally believed in the freedom of artist to select his theme, advised him to visit the Aran Islands to start his career with Irish themes. On the same, he also advised that the play written with Irish themes, should not be imbibed with pure naturalism. Instead, he suggests. “Our movement is a return to the people....They play that is to give them a quite natural pleasure should tell them either of their own life, or of that life of poetry where every man can see his own image, because there alone does human nature escape from arbitrary conditions...If you would enable the man of the roads you. must write about the roads, or about the people of romance or about great historical people.” Synge, following the advice of Yeats, drew its material from the actual only to discover the essence of life, which is universal.

Treatment of Keening

      Keening is the other factor which deepens the tragic effect of the play. ‘Keening is the term (used in the Island), means lamentations for the dead, suggest us that all the Islanders are living under the fear of death. According to the culture, the native women use to wail and moan to show the sorrow on the deaths.

      An accute realization of the hovering nothingness in their lives finds a dramatic expression in the ‘half-savage, half-musical melopoeia known as the ‘keen’, which is actually a particular mode of something. During this time old women begin to come in, crossing themselves on the threshold, and kneeling down in front of the stages with red petticoats over their heads to perform the ritual.

Formation of the Coffin

      On the Island, when a person dies, the members of the family themselves make the coffin and if there is not a sole male member, then the formation is done by the neighbors, as we see in the Riders to the Sea. When Bartley is dead, the whiteboard which was bought in order to make the coffin for Michael’, expecting his dead body to be found in some days, it served for the coffin of Bartley. Cathleen arranges some people to make the coffin and promises them to give the cake, which was meant for Bartley.

Incurable Sufferings of the Natives

      The Sufferings of the people living on the Islands cannot shake their Christian faith; The young priest’s trust echoes in. his words “...the Almighty God won’t leave her destitute to ....with no son livings” but in the end, the faith loses its existence. Even then it is piteous to see Maurya doing the religious rituals on the dead body of her sons. This is the peculiarity of Islanders being so calm even after enduring the sufferings which are incurable.

Many Side Expressions of the Islanders in Riders to the Sea

      Riders to the Sea, is actually, a nationalistic detail of the people of Inishmaan, one of the Islands on the Aran Island. The very setting of the play in ‘Cottage Kitchen, with nets, oilskins, spinning wheel; take us to the rustic world of Island; where mood of the sea is the Divine will; is evident from the extracts of the play:

      Cathleen: Is the sea bad by the white rocks, Nora?

      Nora: Middling bad, God help us. There’s a great roaring in the west, and it’s worse it’ll be getting when the ride’s turning to the wind.’ The most striking aspect of the Islanders is their stoic? acceptance of whatever life has in store for them. Maurya’s final speech, tells the trait of the whole community; “What more can we want than that? No man at all .can be living forever and we must be satisfied.”

University Questions

In Synge’s Riders to the Sea, we find an account of the life of The Aran Islands. Clarify.
Write a note on Riders to the Sea, as an Irish Drama.
Riders to the Sea, is an actual experience of a family on the Island, which becomes the basis for the play. Elaborate it.
Comment on the view that Riders to the Sea, the details of the character’s lives-their attitudes, anxieties, worries and daily routine are those of actual Aran Islands.

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