Riders to the Sea


J. M. Synge

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Riders to the Sea can help.
Themes and Colors
Spirituality and Mourning Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
Age and Gender Theme Icon
The Power of the Sea Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Riders to the Sea, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Spirituality and Mourning

Riders to the Sea depicts a devout community of Catholics for whom faith is a stabilizing force amid the harsh realities of their lives. Allusions to God are threaded throughout the play as characters bless one another, pray, and plead for mercy. However, Catholicism is not the only spiritual tradition in this community; the characters rely on a blend of Catholicism and pagan beliefs native to the Aran Islands in order to grapple with the…

read analysis of Spirituality and Mourning

Fate and Mortality

In Riders to the Sea, the community’s fragile existence depends on their young men’s ability to make a living from the sea—the very force of nature that often takes their lives. Because of this, Riders to the Sea is centrally concerned with past deaths and the threat of death in the future. Maurya and her family struggle to retain a hold on the lives of the young men that they still have, though they…

read analysis of Fate and Mortality

Age and Gender

The small fishing community in Riders to the Sea is organized based on traditional age and gender roles. Men are the primary providers for their families, while women handle household chores. The old guide and advise the young, who then care for the old in return. However, the relentless and inevitable pattern of death among the young men who are duty-bound to work on the sea causes a dearth of able-bodied providers in the community…

read analysis of Age and Gender
Get the entire Riders to the Sea LitChart as a printable PDF.
Riders to the Sea PDF

The Power of the Sea

The sea’s vast natural power, which takes the lives of all of the family’s men, is a constant threat to the play’s characters. The dangers of the sea are unavoidable, however, since the men of the Aran Islands must brave the water in order to trade, fish, and obtain essentials for their families to survive. The sea—a source both of nurture and of anguish—comes to seem more powerful than God in the play. It is…

read analysis of The Power of the Sea