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In the tragic contest that is the inspiring soul of the play “ Riders to the sea”, the sea is a party ranged against the weak, inoffensive inmates of the peasant family of Maurya.
The sea is indeed the most impressive character in the play, it is so intimately associated with human characters whose fate concerns us that it may be called, Fate personified. The peasant family, as of course all other people of the island, live all their lives in open view of the sea. Even little Nora is familiar with its ways, its ebb and flow, its behaviour in storm and calm and all that. They are familiar not only with its physical features and its various moods, but also with the image of the sea as a mighty demon which looms large and dark and mysterious before their minds.
At the very opening of the play, the sea enters as a terrorizing living personality. The sea as a ‘character’ is never off the stage, nor is it for a moment off the mind of inmates of the cottages. How can they close their eyes or minds to it seeing that it has already swallowed four strong young sons of the family, and it is almost sure it has made an end of the fifth, Michael? The monster is never for a moment absent from the thoughts of the three women. Bartley too knows the risk and the chances. But he is manly enough to put forth courage to perform his duty by the family. He silently agrees with Cathleen when she rebukes the whimpering mother: “It’s the life of a young man to be going on the sea”, thereby bringing out the association of the sea with the life of the islanders. It is a demon whom the poor islanders have no means of shunning if they would. And that is the demon’s opportunity of exercising its free will.
It is all along an unequal fight- the fight between the Evil in nature which is, as Hardy expounds in his tragic novels, the handmaiden of Fate or blind Chance, or inscrutable Destiny.
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"Riders to the Sea: The Sea as a Living Character." 123HelpMe.com. 19 Apr 2019
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