Symbolism in J.M.Sing’s Riders to the Sea.

Discuss about the symbolism in Riders to the Sea.


It is well known to us that, symbolism is the main element of any kinds of arts. The dramatists or poets explain their conception in their writings by the help of symbolism. J. M. Synge has also used the symbolism in his prominent play ‘Riders to the Sea’ very carefully. According to T.R. Henn, ‘This general play has become the best tragedy by the help of the symbolism’.     

The symbolisms are as given bellow: 

The Sea: The Sea is an archetypal symbol in this play. 

The Atlantic is not only the Ocean to the inhabitants of the inhabitants of the island but also the controller of luck. They also believe that tide refers the birth and decline refers the death.  

The Sea is also the symbol of fate because several time some natural powerful forces and calamities which destroy the happiness of human and also life in various ways. On the other hand the sea also provides the livelihood of the human who go to the sea and live beside the sea by providing many things. So the sea is the fate controller of the people. 

The Number Nine: The number nine is a magical number and it is a symbol of bad luck. It is used in different places in this play. When the play stars Maurya says to Nora, “Michael is washed up tomorrow morning or the next morning or any morning in the week….” If we total up these mornings we get the number nine. When Bartley died nine unknown women came to Maurya’s house. In the last part of the play Cathleen said, “An old woman……. she will do, and isn’t it nine days herself is after crying and keening.” So number nine is a symbol of unlucky. In a speech Mourya says to Cathleen, “I’ll have half an hour to go down and you’ll see me coming again in 2 days, or in 3 days, or maybe in 4 days if the wind is bad.”

Red Horse: Red horse which is ridden by Bartley and the grey pony ridden by Michael’s ghost is a symbol of death.  

The Bread: The bread, which was baked for Bartley is a symbol of life and Maurya tried to give it to Bartley but she failed. At last she serves the bread to the coffin maker. 

Holy Water: Holy water is the symbol of religiosity or miracle. In this play we note Maurya to spread the holy water to the dead body and dress of Mickael. So, we can decide that holy water is the symbol of soothe or console or calm.

j. M. Singh also applies other symbols such as stick, white board, booth (pin) etc. 

Therefore, Singh is able to apply the symbols accurately and successfully to modify the play to the audience.     




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