The Sadder and Wiser Man

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Deon LeeAugust 11, 2012
English 12
Ancient Mariner essay
The Sadder and Wiser Man

If any lover of literature desired to see mind a superb blend of the supernatural, tragedy, and moral, he needs to look no further than Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, considered by many to be the greatest English literary ballad of all time. In this dramatic but depressing and melancholy tale as told by the ancient mariner to a wedding guest, Coleridge employs what he calls the “willing suspension of disbelief” to effectively convey his message to his readers, which is also the lesson the mariner wished to convey to the wedding guest. As the story opens, we see the ancient mariner narrating his experience to this select listener, telling how he set sail from England to the Antarctic, having for company an albatross, deemed by the crew to be an omen of good luck and fortune. For no legitimate reason, the ancient mariner shot down the albatross with his crossbow, bringing down with it the good luck of their voyage. Seen as callous and cold-hearted to have killed this bearer of goodness, the crew accuses the ancient mariner and is infuriated at his crime, more so when fortune turns against them as their journey become increasingly worse. When Death, the greatest threat of all, begins to besiege the men on board to avenge this violation of “the law of love”, the ancient mariner is spared, only to live with his guilt and the curse which has been cast upon him. Wallowing in misery, the mariner finally experiences a change of heart and learns to love even the most unpleasant of God’s creation; only then does the curse decline. In the end, he is rescued by a Hermit and is charged to tell his story to only a few chosen but privileged hearers. Now, we will explore the reason why the wedding guest, having had the chance to hear this sobering account, returned home “a sadder and wiser” man. First of all, the experiences of the ancient mariner...
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