Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is explicitly referenced early in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in one of Walton’s letters and also later in the text by Victor Frankenstein. Besides being directly mentioned twice in the novel, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner directly parallels Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in layered storytelling structure, mirroring of multiple characters, and the lesson of limitations with consequences. Both stories represent one prominent theme: isolation and loneliness are the punishment for contradicting God’s natural law.
While the most obvious theme in Coleridge’s text is nature, the often-overlooked theme of loneliness is picked up on by Shelley. Shelley is able to most expertly thread the piece into her own story of Frankenstein in a way which adds complexity to the loneliness felt by both Victor and his creature. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner tells the tale of a wedding guest confronted by an old sailor who recounts his expedition to the South Artic in years long past. It is on this journey that he shoots an albatross, a romantic symbol of nature and purity, and as a result is subjected to the supernatural wrath and becomes the sole survivor of his ship crew. His final punishment is being doomed to a lonely existence in which he can only wander the land conveying his woeful tale and teaching others that one must not go against the natural order of things such as life and death. .
Victor’s suffering and loneliness, while differing in physical causality, is rooted in making the same mistake as the mariner, transgressing the laws and boundaries of nature and God. Just as the mariner loses his crewmates one by one, so Victor loses his family and friends one by one at the hands of his own creation. It is interesting to note that the mariner is punished for taking the life of the albatross, while Victor is punished for the exact opposite, the creation of life. This implies the theme further that it is God’s...
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