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Rime and the Mariner

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Rime and the Mariner

Samuel Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is a major piece of poetry. The poem has major themes, characters and morals. The major character in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is the mariner who relates his chilling experiences. It is he who kills the albatross, suffers the consequences, learns from his sufferings, and earns his redemption. As part of his penance, he spends his life telling his tale to others as a warning and a lesson. At first sight, the mariner appears terrifying in looks and manner, but he is so intense that the wedding guest is compelled to listen. As the tale unfolds, the wedding guest's reactions to the mariner change from scorn to sympathy, and finally even to pity. The wedding guest serves as a way to frame and advance the story, but he also undergoes a transformation of his own. (Bostetter) Startled by the mariner who accosts him, the wedding guest first appears as a devil-may-care gallant. However, by the time he has heard the mariner's dreadful tale; he has become thoughtful and subdued. (Coleridge)The mariner's shipmates are innocent victims of his rash act. Like the members of the wedding party, the sailors are purposefully kept vague and undeveloped; (Hartman) since Coleridge's intent is that the audience focuses its full attention on the plight of the mariner. (Bostetter) Supernatural beings appear in the poem as symbolic or allegorical figures, representing the forces of nature, life, death, and retribution. (Bostetter) The mariner confronts these figures and must ultimately appease them in order to obtain his salvation. (Hartman)

There are several secondary themes in 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', relating to Christianity and the supernatural, and two primary themes. The primary themes are the potential consequences of a single unthinking act and the process of destruction and regeneration. In addition, Coleridge focuses on humanity's relationship to the natural world. (Hartman) It is clear that the killing of the albatross brings dire consequences on the mariner. In a larger sense, it is not his killing of the bird that is wrong, but the mariner's callous and destructive relationship with nature that is in error. Coleridge intends to confront this relationship and place it in a larger philosophical context. (Hartman)

One primary theme concerns the potential consequences of a single unthinking act. When the mariner shoots an albatross, he does it casually and without animosity. Yet this impulsive, destructive act is his undoing. Coleridge believed that the seeds of destruction and creation are contained within each other. (Bostetter) One cannot create something without destroying something else. (Bostetter) Likewise, destruction leads to the creation of something new. The loss of the mariner's ship, shipmates, and his own former self ultimately leads to the regeneration of the mariner. (Bostetter)This process of destruction and regeneration introduces the poem's second main theme. The mariner gradually comes to realize the enormous consequences of his casual act, even as he struggles to accept responsibility for it. To do this he had to comprehend that all things in nature are of equal value. Everything, as a part of nature, has its own beauty and is to be cherished for its own sake. (Hartman) This realization is suddenly apparent when the mariner spontaneously recognizes the beauty of the sea snakes; his heart filled with love for them, and he can bless them 'unaware'. The moral of the tale is manifest

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