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Maurya – An Overall Discussion
Maurya, a woman in her eighties, is one of the four main characters in John Millington Synge’s ‘Riders to the Sea’. The entire story revolves around her and tells the story of her tragic past. Her great endurance and bravery in the most significant stages of life reaches her to the level of a true heroine of the game. Now let us look at Maurya critically.
At the very beginning of the play, we see that Maurya has already lost her four sons and is now waiting to find and accept the dead body of the fifth, Michael, who has been missing for nine days. As he says; “…if Michael is washed, tomorrow morning, or the next morning, or any morning in his week, by the grace of God.”
Now Bartley is the only living son of her family.
Maurya is actually a very unhappy woman as she had to closely watch the death of her husband, father-in-law and other members of her family. She had to raise her children in the world without the help of other men in the family. As he says; “I had a husband and my husband’s father and six sons in this house – six great men, although it was a difficult birth that I had with each of them … there were Stephen and Shawn were lost in a big wind and it often occurs in the bay of Gregory of Zlaté Usta…”
As Maurya faces great difficulties in bringing up her sons in this world, they should have stayed with her to relieve her of hardships and hardships. As a mother, she once longed for sons, but all was in vain. From her own speech we can feel her extreme grief and agony; “In the great world old men leave things behind for their sons and children, but it is in this place that young men leave things that are old.”
Maurya, like most other mothers, takes great care of her sons and prays to the Almighty for the betterment of her sons. In her own words; “…may god almighty have mercy on bartley’s soul and michael’s soul and seamen and patch and stephen and shawn’s soul…”
Plus, she tried her best to resist Bartley going overland to sell some horses at the cattle fair. After losing five sons, no mother can let her child go to sea in bad weather. As he says; “If it were a hundred horses or a thousand horses that you alone had, what is the price of a thousand horses against a son where there is only one son?”
We see it, Maurya senses the danger of his son. So he says; “It is hard, we will surely be the day you drown with the rest. How will I live and the girls with me and I am an old woman looking for a grave?”
He again predicts his son’s fate, which later turns out to be true. “He’s gone, God save us, and we won’t see him again.”
Here we find a strong analogy between Oedipus and Maurya. Maurya knows the future as well as Oedipus, but Oedipus learns of his fate from an oracle while Maurya knows it from personal experience. Maurya, like most other women on the island, has superstitious views. We mention it in her various speeches. As he says; “Bartley was first on a red light and I tried to say ‘God speed you’ but something choked the words in my throat…”
After returning from the spring well, she declares Bartley dead because she saw the ghost of Michael on a gray pony right behind Bartley sitting on the red desert. It is nothing more than a superstition.
Towards the end of the play we can see the majesty and audacity of Maurya to suffer an irreparable loss. She fears as long as Bartley is alive and tries her best to change his fate, but to no avail. So when Bartley’s dead body is taken home, she transforms into a fearless lady and challenges the sea. “They are all gone and the sea can do nothing to me…” In the tragedy Riders to the sea, Synge’s canvas is limited, but the range of his experience is wide, varied and deep. . Its setting may be regional, but its appeal is universal. The story could be a real experience for any family, anywhere in the world, living on the sea coast, where the sons grow up and accept a watery death in the sea as soon as they come of age, leaving the old mothers helpless and alone like Maurya.
In the play, we see a storm of suffering and tragedy bearing down on Maurya, but she shows extraordinary patience, perseverance and composure to resign herself to the tragedy. As he says; “What more can we ask for? No man can live forever and we must be content.”
Finally we can say that Maurya is a unique creation of Synge. She is “so fixed and integral in her character that, for all the victory over her, she is still herself,” as Daniel Cookery notes.
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