Edward Bond is one of those writers, whose work is debated due to symbolism. The title “The Sea” sounds simple yet its symbolic significance is debatable. Lots of literal meanings are attached to it. A number of critics defined the symbolic significance of the title “The Sea”. It is necessary to mention that a symbol can have different meanings; only the writer can best explain its exact meanings. Critics rely upon the theme, style of the writer, the era in which it is written, or society to explain the symbolic significance of a piece of literature.
An indirect suggestion to express an idea, emotion or state is called a symbol. In a broader sense, a symbol is an important element of a piece of literature to point out something with hidden meaning. A direct attack on society or its norms can be harmful to a writer, therefore, he gets help from the technique of symbolism. He expresses his views in a style that apparently seems simple but literally, they indicate something significant.
“The Sea” opens with a scene on the beach of an ocean. Willy cries for help and nobody listens to him. The sea is thunderous and from the chaos, it seems that a horrific incident has occurred. Collins, a friend of Willy, is drowned. In most cases, the sea is a symbol of wideness. It symbolizes life because of its daunting width and depth. It is vast, it is humble, it is calm and it is powerful but is it how Edward Bond sees “The Sea”? There may be differences in opinions but the majority of the critics don’t see “The Sea” as a symbol of vastness nor has Edward Bond portrayed it as a symbol of hugeness.
The play was written in 1973 and marks of World War II are there in it. World War II put people of every society in grave danger. Most critics agree that the sea symbolizes destruction, fear, menace, death and danger. Sea is a synonym for fear so far as the theme of fear in this play is concerned. Hatch and his friends fear an unknown enemy. They think that Willy is a spy of aliens, who (aliens) are going to attack planet Earth. They become mad due to this fear and try to kill Willy. Even at the start of the play, Willy asks Hatch for help but he does not help him and considers him an alien. In scene VI, Hatch stabs Collin’s corpse thinking that it is Willy but in scene VII, he becomes afraid after seeing Willy alive. He shouts that the world is in danger. His mind is full of superstitious beliefs and at the same time is filled with terror. Evens finds relief in wine so as to overpower his fear. Although he faces it yet he knows that the world is still not calm enough to live a peaceful life. His philosophy is that the world can be a better place, but it is not. Meaning thereby, he also has fear in his mind though he is trying to overpower it either through wine or by directly facing it. Hence, fear can be the symbolic significance of the title “The Sea”.
The sea is also a symbol of death, destruction and danger. Mrs Rafi produces a play, the purpose of which is to collect money, which will be spent on coastguards so that people of the vicinity can be saved from the destruction of the sea. The sea is terrible and it can ruin many families. Collins drowned in the sea; it is not tragic only for Collins but also for Rose and even for Willy. Bond tries to explain that people, who are sometimes calm, can be dangerous. Hatch severs as a coastguard but ironically he was the one, who had not helped Willy in saving Collins. Hatch thinks that Willy is searching for Collins’ body so that he can remove marks of violence from it but in scene VI, it is not Willy but Hatch, who leaves marks of violence on his body by stabbing it. These incidents refer to the title “The Sea” as also a symbol of destruction. It appears that the sea is the reason for destruction but symbolically, people like Hatch, Hollarcut, Carter and Thompson are the real reasons behind devastation, death and danger. In this way, destruction can also be the symbolic significance of the title “The Sea”.
Another symbol which can be found by minute perusing/watching the play is the bruising power of the sea. The sea symbolizes force, power and authority. Every character in the play wants authoritative powers. Mrs Rafi lusts for authority. She first places an order for curtains but subsequently refuses to receive them from Hatch after knowing that he did not help Willy in saving Collins. It is the authoritative power of Mrs Rafi that Hatch could not do anything about her refusal to accept the curtains. Hatch thinks that Mrs Rafi is under the influence of Willy. Mrs Rafi being an aristocratic lady wants to dominate society. Hatch has an influence on Carter, Hollarcut and Thompson. Thus, power can be another symbolic significance of the title “The Sea”.
The sea is always a mystery for everyone. No one knows what is inside it. It can be dangerous and at the same time, being part of nature can be beautiful. Many of the characters in this play are mysteriously complex. In the start, Evens seems to be a drunker but in the end, he leaves an impact on us while describing the philosophy of his life. Hatch is a coastguard by profession and his duty is to save the lives of people but he is the one who tries to kill Willy. Vicar is a religious character but is manipulated by an aristocratic figure and is religiously a corrupt person. Mrs Rafi pretends herself a helping lady but in reality, she strengthens her influence on people. So, mysteriousness is also one of the most important symbolic significance of the title “The Sea”.
Like a professional writer Edward Bond indeed skillfully uses the technique of symbolism. The title of the play itself is symbolic. Every character, every incident and every dialogue symbolically refers to something. Edward Bond has very wisely chosen this title to indicate fear, death, destruction, dread, power, terror, mystery etc. Ironically, through “The Sea”, he wants to shed light on the ability of human beings to survive the worst. Evens’ philosophy is remarkable in this regard. There may be worst cases but a sea can never be destroyed. Hence, Edward Bond has an optimistic approach and wants that humans must survive even in the worst cases. In short, “The Sea”, the title of the play, symbolically summarizes the whole drama.
- Explain in detail the title significance of “The Sea”.
- Bring out the symbolic significance of the title of Bond’s “The Sea”.
- Write a note on the title significance of “The Sea”.