The Pride of the Mariner
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Coleridge is a mysterious, complicated, intriguing tale of a sea voyage recounted by a Mariner to a wedding guest he encounters just as the wedding is about to commence. The unwilling wedding guest is mesmerized by the Mariner and the recitation of the story recalling the storm, fog, drought, ghost ship, spirits, angels, dead bodies, and the Albatross. Coleridge’s tale has the Mariner journeying through pride, suffering, the supernatural, transformation, redemption, and salvation. The Mariner’s pride prompted the rejection of salvation in the form of the Albatross that was sent by God at the Mariner’s request; this rejection prompted a series of events that propelled the Mariner and the ship’s crew into utter desolation. The character of the Mariner and crew is tested as they find themselves surrounded by walls of ice; the Mariner fails the test by succumbing to his pride. The situation is perilous and the Mariner and crew loose hope as anyone would do under the circumstances. The Mariner and crewed “hailed” (66), prayed, requested, summoned some form of life, some bit of hope from God that they would survive the dismal, bleak circumstances they were facing. This request was granted with the appearance of the Albatross which changed the tide for the Mariner and the crew. The appearance of the Albatross brings good fortune “the ice did split” (69), “a good south wind” (71). Led by his own arrogance the Mariner then chooses to take control of the situation by killing the Albatross. He succumbs to his desire to control his own destiny as well as the destiny of the crew.
The crew’s opinion of the Albatrosses role in their salvation was ever changing throughout the poem mirroring how we change our views based on our circumstances, especially when we suffer. The crew reprimanded the Mariner for killing the bird, when the fog cleared they felt the Mariner was justified in his actions. Once they began experiencing the drought they blamed the Mariner and viewed him as the instrument that destroyed their salvation, the Albatross. Therefore, they viewed the Mariner as the agent used to the destroy their salvation. Due to the drought “evil looks” (139) were the only means the crew was able to express their condemnation of the Mariner as they were unable to voice their disapproval. The Mariner is condemned to wear the dead Albatross as a reminder of his sins; he carries the weight of his burden for all to see. The evil looks remain on the crew’s face as they all die. The Mariner must continue suffering the consequences of his actions as he is not afforded death. At this point of his journey death would be a welcome end to the days and nights filled with dehydration, sleeplessness, and his inability to pray “tried to pray/prayer had gusht/wicked whisper came/my heart as dry as dust” (244-247).
The Mariner experiences several transformations during his journey. He begins as a man full of pride, and becomes a broken man burdened by his sins. The Mariner continues to allow his pride to dominate his life, as he is unwilling to face the consequences of his actions by accepting responsibility for the death of the Albatross, the crew, and the all the misfortunes experienced on the ship. It is only when the Mariner gains an appreciation and regard for some being other than himself, “I blessed them unaware” (287), that the curse is removed. The Albatross is released from his neck, the burden from his heart, and his body as he finally gains the ability to pray and sleep. The suffering the Mariner experienced especially during the drought was a means to change his perspective and bring him to the realization that all creatures are due love and respect. Once the Mariner learns this lesson he is free to begin living again, the curse is broken.
The supernatural forces the Mariner encounters on his journey are an important element used to bring the Mariner to repentance. The...
Cited: Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." The Norton Anthology of
English Literature. Gen. ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. D. New York: Norton, 2012. 443-459. Print.
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