Cathleen: Character Analysis in Riders To The Sea

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Regard for Domestic Affairs

      Cathleen, is the elder daughter of Maurya, in Riders to the Sea. Only a girl of twenty, manages the house because her mother is broken hearted due to the constant deaths in the house and disappearance of Michael makes the situation worse. Cathleen is quite aware of her mother’s plight and so takes care of all the houseworks. The very opening of the play reveals us that Cathleen is busy kneading the flour for the cake and thereafter, spinning on her wheel. Only it is Cathleen, who knows where the things are kept is quite evident when Bartley asks for the rope for making a halter she tells Nora, “It’s on a nail by the white boards. I hung it up this morning, for the pig with the black feet was eating it.” In the somber atmosphere of the house, only Cathleen makes arrangements for the food, without losing her temper. One thing attracts our attention is that Cathleen is mostly shown in the kitchen.


      Cathleen is a sharp-minded girl, who has great presence of mind even in the most critical situations. It is Cathleen who resists Nora to disclose the truth concerning bundle so as not to make upset their mother. Then with great care, she hides the bundle in the turf attic and on being asked by mother about her purpose in the cellar, she makes an excuse that the turf is needed for the good preparation of the cake. Thus, we see that she has a remarkable capacity to cope with situations. Cathleen's alertness is also noticeable when she hears the footsteps on the big stones outside her house. Sometimes she can be blamed for her superstitious nature but it is also because of her background when she rebukes her mother “Isn’t it sorrow enough is on everyone in this house without you sending him out with an unlucky word behind him, and a hard word in his ear?” Once again, it is Cathleen who points out that Bartley is not’ given the cake and he would die of hunger if is not provided with it.

Possesses Logical Mind

      Cathleen is God-gifted intelligent with an incredible logical bent of mind who reaches at the conclusion only after deep contemplation. She understands that a young man, cannot stay at home, fearing the adventures of the sea. Death comes and it is inevitable then how long a man can escape from it, So she scolds mother, “It is the life of young’ man to be going on the sea and who would listen to an old woman with one thing and she saying it over?” In this way she defends her brother who might have gone irritated due to mother’s strong repulsion. Again her aptitude is studied when the mother sends her child with a bad word and she advises her to avert the danger by going to the spring well and having a glance of him. This way she can nullify the effect of a dark word and the bread can also be given to him. Her identification of Michael’s clothes examining the every minute detail again demonstrate her cleverness.

Deep Concern for Family Members

      At such a tender age, one can not Expect too much care for the family as we find in the character of Cathleen. Her first dialogue aware us of how much pain-staking she is as Nora is curious to know about her mother she tells, “She is lying down, God help her and maybe sleeping, if She’s able.” Her deep love for her brother is noteworthy which reflects that only the idea of Michael’s death, makes her wail and moan. It is Cathleen’s distinguished feature to face the predicament lonely and keeping the death of Michael as a confidential so as not to cause worry to Maurya. “May be it’s easier she’ll be after giving her blessing to Bartley and we won’t let on we’ve heard anything the time he’s on the sea.”

      Cathleen attains that intelligence which enables her to make a proper speech at a proper time. For example she discloses the drowning of Michael when the circumstances demand it. Cathleen’s much understanding is apparent, when she satisfies her sister, Nara who suspects over mother’s love for her children, says ‘An old woman will be soon tired with anything she will do’. When the mother is sad enough to ignore her responsibility it is Cathleen who makes arrangement for the last journey of her two brother’s Bartley and Michael. Concludingly we may say that Cathleen is an ideal girl who takes the life practically and adjust herself what the time demands.

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