Maurya: as A Tragic Protagonist in Riders To The Sea

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Manifestation of Human Predicament

      Maurya’s entire life has been one of long drawn-out suffering however, her extraordinary courage to endure them, is superb. In spite of her uninterrupted suffering her faith in the Almighty never shakes. It isn’t that I haven’t prayed for you, Bartley to the Almighty God. It isn’t that I haven’t said prayers in the dark night till you wouldn’t know what I’d be saying...’ Maurya passively bears the sufferings made on her by the monstrous and rapacious sea. Thus, her personal anxieties and sufferings become universalized which intensifies the tragic predicament of the fisher folk. Maurya has lost all the male members already, thus struggling hard to hold her last son from death. “Isn’t it a hard and cruel man won’t hear a word from an old woman and she holding him from the sea”. The problem of utilitarianism is the basic cause for loss of male members in Maurya’s family, which also intensifies emotional and maternal anxieties. “It’s hard set we’ll be surely the day you’re drowned with the rest. What way will I live and the girls with me and I am old woman looking for the grave”.

Embodiment of Maternal Love

      The actual sufferers in a fisherfolk are women, who are left with their isolation, when their sons perish in the sea. According to Synge ‘the maternal feeling is so powerful on these islands that it gives a life torment to the women. Their sons grow up to be banished as soon as they are of age, or to live here in continual danger on the sea..."

      Mother can sacrifice a huge treasure for the life of a son: What is the price of a thousand horses against a son where there is one son only? It is not Maurya’s first son, who is going to the sea, but she has already lost five, of his sons whose deaths, one after the other, ‘I have had a husband, and a husband’s father, and six sons in this house — six fine men, though it was a hard birth I had with every one of them and they coming to the world and some of them were found and some of them were not found, but they’re gone now the lot of them... There were Stephen, and Shawn were lost in the great wind, and found after in the Bay of Gregory of the Golden Mouth, and carried up the two of them one plank and in by that door.” Just then, the body of Bartley, her last son, is taken by the neighbors makes her think that the body recovered from the sea, is Michael’s. She is so much shocked that does not want to accept the bitter truth and eludes herself by stating “These does be a power of young men floating round in the sea, and what way would they know if it was Michael they had, or another man like him, for when a man is nine days in the sea, and the wind blowing, it’s hard set his own mother would be to say what man was in it”. This is an almost intolerable picture of mother’s sufferings, who finds his precious sons in such a condition that they are beyond the recognization.

Maurya’s Nostalgic Reverse

      Maurya thinks that she will not be able to bear the death of last son: “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.” She thinks the father and the grandfather of the sons were lucky, to be died, much before, and escaped from the long series of misfortunes. But the nostalgic feeling vanishes, with the series of reveries rather enlightening her with a new strength: “.. 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”.

Reconciliation with the Inevitable

      Maurya’s whole life has been a continuous series of calamities and the next doom which is about to be befall the family, is presumed by Maurya. “He is gone now, and when the black night is falling I’ll have no son left me in the world”. But, when, Bartley is also gone, Maurya feels liberated from all bondage and she attains a higher truth even after a hard conflict with sea, which seems completely defeated. Her reconciliation with the inevitable is, revealed, in her statement: “Michael has a clean burial in the far month, by the grace of the Almighty God ... what more can we want than that ...”

Perception of a Higher Truth

      Maurya not only shows an extraordinary' courage to bear the sufferings but with the passage of time, she rises above her personal anxieties and percepts the higher truth of life which has philosophic significance, and it is clear from her final remarks: “...What more can we want than that?... No man at all can be living forever and we must be satisfied. “Much surprise to us her faith in God does not shake, even when the mercy from Rim Has been denied: “It isn’t that I haven’t prayed for you, Bartley ...” Not 'even once, she blame God for what she has suffered, thus she typifies the islanders, who never lose their faith in an Unhelpful God, in spite of endless sufferings. She emerges as a true heroine and wins the appreciation from us as, W.B. Yeats remarked “The old woman in Riders to the Sea is mourning for her six sons, mourns for the passing of all beauty and strength. She is an individual in as much as she is a mother living at the particular time and at a particular place and also embodies the enduring traits of her kind. But she is something much more. She stands not only for all the people of Aran Islands but also represents humanity, an image of humanity facing a hostile universe. Through her Synge hints, as he does in other ways, that life is essentially tragic and the final reality is death, and that through the acceptance of this fact, along with compassion for doomed humanity, clarity and peace may come.


      Aristotle suggests that the tragic hero, should be a man of wealth and fame. But, here we see that the protagonist is a poor widow, who has lost her five sons, is facing the problem of utilitarianism. But, in the end, the protagonist reaches the level of a true heroine, after reconciling with her fate. We must remember that Riders to the Sea, is not written in the mold of conventional heroic tragedy. However, Maurya attains the unparalleled tragic level.

University Questions

What circumstances led Maurya to emerge as a truly heroic figure in Rider to the Sea?
Rider to the Sea, is a tragedy of Maurya. Examine and corroborate the view.
Point out and elaborate how the play Riders to the Sea, moves around single character, Maurya?
Do you agree that Maurya is the most developed character in Synge’s ever writings?

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