Synge: The Aran Islands

Pdf Synge, John Millington, The Aran Islands, Part I and II, Dublin: Maunsel And Company Ltd, 1912
Size:21.4MbytesModified:20 May 2011, 12:27
Pdf Synge, John Millington, The Aran Islands, Part III and IV, Dublin: Maunsel And Company Ltd, 1912
Size:16.7MbytesModified:20 May 2011, 12:29

The Aran Islands by John Millington Synge (1871-1909) was first published in 1907. It is a four part series of essays on the geography and people of the islands with whom the playwright and author became intimate with over several summers in the late 1890s.

Synge was born into a well to do Protestant family and pursued a career as a musician and writer before he found himself struggling to make a living in Paris. He met the poet W. B. Yeats who suggested that Synge make the people of the Aran Islands the subjects of his works.

The Aran Islands explain how Synge lived among the ordinary Aran islanders, listening to the flow of their everyday conversation, observing their way of life and reveal how they stirred his artistic passions. For Synge and other writers of the "Irish Literary Revival," the ways of the Gaelic Irish appeared more authentic than the wealthy Anglicised elite who lived in Dublin and looked to the British Empire for their identity.

Synge's essays are of great interest today because they describe a way of life that has since disappeared. The Aran islanders lived in acute poverty, dependent on fishing on the stormy Atlantic for their existence. Meanwhile on the mainland, Irish peasants subsisted on a diet largely of potatoes. Remote parts of Ireland remained unchanged by the modern world until well into the 20th century. Artists in the modern era like Synge felt alienated from modern industrialised Western society and looked to the past or to contemporary indigenous cultures and peoples for inspiration.

Synge found his muse just as Yeats said he would and for the remainder of his short life he wrote a series of plays including The Playboy Of The Western World based on the Aran islands. His works, which sought to faithful reproduce the Hiberno-English dialect of the fishermen and peasants and their ammoral storylines, angered Irish nationalists.

Many Irish nationalists, who would a few years later fight to overthrow British rule in Ireland, romanticised the Irish people, taking their inspiration from the legends of Cuchulainn and Fionn. Synge rejected their vision and sought instead to depict the Irish as they really were in his plays.


previousPrevious - Scale: Hibernian Atlas
Next - Taylor & Skinner: Maps of the Roads of Ireland Surveyed 1777next