Complete summary of J. M. Synge’s Riders to the Sea. eNotes plot summaries cover all the significant action of Riders to the Sea. Riders to the Sea, one-act play by John Millington Synge, published in and produced in Riders to the Sea is set in the Aran Islands off the west coast. Purchase Plays by John Millington Synge. AFTER nine days of constant grieving for her missing son, Michael, who, she feels certain, has been drowned, old.
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There are some white boards standing against the wall. Since there are no trees on synfe island, these boards have been obtained from the mainland. These boards indicate that someone has recently died there and a coffin is to be made for his burial.
The cottage is very close to the sea.
The island is one of a group known as Aran Islands. Synge went to these islands at the suggestion of W. Yeats and spent a long time there, studying the lives of the islanders and making a rides of the language spoken by them. The incident included in this one-act play is based on the stones that Synge was told by the t of these islands.
The language is based on the conversations he had actually heard among the islanders. When the curtain rises, we see Cathleen, a girl of about 20, kneading flour. She completes this work and puts the dough in the oven by the fire.
She then starts spinning yarn with the spinning wheel. Her younger sister, Nora, now appears at the door. She has a small bundle of clothes which she is hiding under her shawl. She asks her sister where their mother is. Cathleen replies that their mother is lying in the other room, and perhaps sleeping if she can get any sleep.
Nora comes to the kitchen and tells her sister that the bundle had been given to her by the young priest.
Riders to the Sea
The bundle contains synte shirt and a plain stocking which had been removed from the body of a man who was drowned and whose was washed ashore in Donegal. He was given a decent burial by the people there. Michael, their brother, had been drowned in eea sea, nine days back and the whole family, especially their rixers, Maurya, was in deep mourning. They had been looking for Michael’s body to be washed ashore so that they could give him a, clean burial.
They had obtained the white boards from the mainland to make a coffin for Michael. But the body hasn’t appeared so far. The young priest told Nora that if those clothes belonged to Michael they would be pleased to know that his body had been decently buried in Donegal.
Riders to the Sea – Wikipedia
The priest added that if those clothes did not belong to Michael, Nora should not mention anything about them to her mother because this will give her greater pain and she will almost kill herself with lamentation.
Cathleen says that their last surviving brother, Bartley, was planning to go that day by sea to the mainland to zea his horses at the Galway fair, and she asks Nora whether she had asked the young priest if he would ths Bartley from going. Nora replies that the young priest told her that he won’t stop him from going, but he told her not to be afraid of seea safety.
Her mother prays to God almighty up to midnight and so God would not make her utterly helpless by taking away her last surviving son. Cathleen asks Nora whether the sea appears to be rough near the rocks. Nora says that the sea is bad, but not very bad.
There is a great roaring sound coming from the west, and it will eiders worse when the tide turns. Nora asks her sister whether she should open the bundle of clothes. Cathleen says that they would take a long time in identifying the clothes because both of them are crying and in the meantime, it is possible that their mother might wake up and come there.
Nora hears sounds of Mauya’s movements. Cathleen suggests that the bundle should be hidden in the turf kept in the loft where Maurya cannot see them. When she goes to the seaside to see whether Michael’s body has been washed ashore they can open the bundle.
They put up a ladder and Cathleen goes up and hides the bundle in the turf. Maurya now enters the kitchen and she is surprised to find Cathleen near the turf. She asks her whether they did not have enough fuel for the day. Cathleen explains that they are baking a cake and so they need more fuel. The cake would be needed by Bartley, if he goes to Connemara. Maurya says that Bartley must not go on this day because the wind is rising from the south and the west. She is sure that the young priest will stop him from going.
Nora says that the priest will not stop him and heard some of the people in the village saying that he would definitely go. He has gone down ridera find out whether there would be another boat to the mainland this week. Just then Bartley comes and he seems to be in a hurry. He asks Cathleen syge the new rope that they had bought in Connemara. The rope is hanging on a nail and Nora gives it to him. Maurya asks him not to take the rope.
When Michael’s body is found, they will dig a deep grave for him and the rope will be needed for lowering the coffin in the grave.
Bartley says that he needs the rope to make a halter for the red mare and he has to go quickly because the boat is about to leave synve there won’t be another boat for fo weeks or more.
People are saying that this will be a good fair for the sale of horses rriders he wants to sell his red mare and Michael’s gray pony.
N objects to Bartley’s going on the ground that if Michael’s body is found there would be no male member in the house to make the coffin out of the white boards that she has purchased.
Bartley says that there is no thd of the body being washed up because there is a strong wind blowing from the west and south. Maurya says that the indications are that the sea will become rough now and she does not want him to take the risk of crossing the sea to go to the mainland at this time. He is her only son now and he is more precious to her than even a thousand horses.
Bartley rixers no heed to his mother’s words and continues making the halter. He asks Cathleen to take care of the sheep and to sell the pig with hhe black feet if she gets a tk price for it. He asks the sisters to gather enough sea-weed.
He says that they will face a lot of difficulty now because there sunge only one male member left in the house to do all the work.
Riders to the Sea | one-act play by Synge |
When Maurya finds that Bartley is determined to go, she says that the family will have real difficulty when he too is drowned like the rest of the male members of the family. She asks him how she, an old woman, will live and provide for the girls if he undertakes this trip and is drowned. Bartley ignores his mother’s objections and is determined to go.
He asks Nora to see syne the boat is coming towards the pier. Nora sees that the boat is passing near the green head and getting ready to stop at the pier. Bartley takes his purse and tobacco and gets ro to go.
He says that he will come back in two days or three days or perhaps, four days if the wind is bad. Maurya now becomes desperate and she says that he is a hard and cruel man who does not listen to his old mother who is trying to hold him back from mm to the sea. Cathleen now takes her brother’s side and says that it is natural for a young man to want to go to the sea and their mother is unnecessarily saying the same thing over and over again.
Bartley now picks up the halter which he has made from the rope and says that he must go quickly. He would ride on the red mare and the gray pony would run behind him. Maurya is grief-stricken as Bartley leaves. She does not give her blessings to him. She has a sign that now he will not come home alive. She says that he is gone and they will not see him again, and when tne black night comes she will have no son left in the world.
Cathleen takes her mother to task for sending Bartley away without ricers him. She had said very unlucky words when Bartley was going on a dangerous voyage.
They were already grief-stricken due to the death of Michael and Maurya’s words are likely to add to their ruders. Cathleen then remembers that she has forgotten to give the cake to Bartley. Nora ridesr that Bartley has eaten nothing since the morning and he will reach the mainland only at night, and he will be miserable due to hunger.
Cathleen takes the cakes out of the oven and blames her mother for her own forgetfulness. She says that nobody can have sons in a house where an old woman keeps on talking all the time. Cathleen cuts a piece of the cake and wraps it in a piece of cloth. She suggests to her mother to take this synnge the spring well and give it to Bartley when he passes near this place on his way to the pier. If she invokes God’s blessings on Bartley now the evil effect of the unlucky words that she spoke earlier will be neutralized.
She can meet Bartley, if rides goes quickly. Maurya takes the bread and stands up unsteadily.
She is old and weak and finds it difficult to walk. Cathleen asks Nora to give her the stick which Michael brought from Connemara. Maurya takes the stick and comments that in the outside world the older people leave things to be used by the younger people, but in this place young men die first and leave things to be used by older people.
Michael has died and his stick is being used by his mother. She goes out slowly. When Maurya goes out, Nora takes the ladder and goes up to the loft and throws down the bundle. She says that the young priest would come back to the island the next day and they should inform him if these clothes are definitely Michael’s.
He had told her how the body had been found.
Two men were rowing with poteen early in the morning and the oar of one of them caught the body and they brought it to Donegal. Cathleen cut the string and opened the bundle. It contained a shirt and a stocking. Nora says that she would get Michael’s shirt which synfe hanging there and compare the flannel that of the two.