Title Significance of “The Sea” | Play by Edward Bond

Edward Bond is one of those writers, whom work is debated due to symbolism. Title “The Sea” sounds simple yet its symbolic significance is debatable. Lots of literal meanings are attached to it. Numbers of critics defined symbolic significance of the title “The Sea”. It is necessary to remember that a symbol can have different meanings; only the writer can best explain its exact meanings. Critics rely upon theme, style of the writer, era in which it is written, or society to explain symbolic significance of a piece of literature.

Indirect suggestion to express an idea, emotion or state is called a symbol. In wider sense, symbol is an important element of a piece of literature to point out something in hidden meanings. Direct attack on society or its norms can be harmful for a writer, therefore, he gets help from technique of symbolism. He expresses his views in a style that apparently they seem 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 him. The sea is thunderous and from the chaos it seems that a horrific incident has been occurred. Collins, friend of Willy, is drowned. In most of the cases, the sea is symbol of wideness. It symbolizes for 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 see “The Sea”? There may be differences in opinions but 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.

Play was written in year 1973 and marks of World War-II are there in it. World War-II put people of every society in grave danger. Most of the critics agree that the sea symbolizes for destruction, fear, menace, death and danger. Sea is synonym for fear so far as theme of fear in this play is concerned. Hatch and his friends have fear from unknown enemy. They think that Willy is spy of aliens, who (aliens) are going to attack on the planet earth. They become mad due to this fear and try to kill Willy. Even in 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 world is still not calm enough to live a peaceful life. His philosophy is that world can be a better place but up till now 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”.

Sea is also symbol of death, destruction and danger. Mrs. Rafi produces a play, purpose of which is to collect money, which will be spent on coastguards so that people of the vicinity can be saved from 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 the 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 the body of Collins by stabbing it. These incidents refer that title “The Sea” is also symbol of destruction. It appears that the sea is reason of destruction but symbolically, people like Hatch, Hollarcut, Carter and Thompson are real reasons behind destruction, 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 for force, power and authority. Every character in the play wants authoritative powers. Mrs. Rafi lusts for authority. She first places order for curtains but subsequently refuses to receive it 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 on refusal of Mrs. Rafi to accept the curtains. Hatch thinks that Mrs. Rafi is under the influence of Willy. Mrs. Rafi being aristocratic lady wants to dominate the society. Hatch has influence on Carter, Hollarcut and Thompson. Thus, power can be another symbolic significance of the title “The Sea”.

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 at the end, he leaves impact on us while describing philosophy of his life. Hatch is coastguard by profession and his duty is to save lives of people but he is the one who tries to kill Willy. Vicar is a religious character but is manipulated by 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 technique of symbolism. Title of the play itself is symbolic. Every character, every incident and every dialogue symbolically refer 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 optimistic approach and wants that humans must survive even in worst cases. In short, “The Sea”, title of play, symbolically summarizes the whole drama.

Related Questions:

  • Explain in detail title significance of “The Sea”.
  • Bring out the symbolic significance of the title of Bond’s “The Sea”.
  • Write note on title significance of “The Sea”.