Use of Symbolism in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Essay

Use of Symbolism in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Essay

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s use of symbolism in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner lends the work to adults as a complex web of representation, rather than a simple story about a sailor. The author uses the story of a sailor and his adventures to reveal aspects of life. This tale follows the Mariner and his crew as they travel between the equator and the South Pole, and then back to England. Without the symbols, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner would be simply a poem about an old mariner who is telling a story about killing a bird to a guest at a wedding. Of course, anyone who reads the poem can see that there is more to it than just a simple telling of a story.

The first symbol in the poem is the wedding that the guest and the Mariner are at. This is a highly significant detail, because Coleridge could have made the story telling take place at any setting, but he chose a wedding. The reason for this was because a wedding is a very religious and very happy occasion. Weddings symbolize new beginnings and happiness. The reason that Coleridge decided to have this horrid tale told at a wedding could be for any number of reasons. I feel that the setting was chosen because of the new beginnings implied. As the Mariner tells his tale, the guest is held captive and when the story is done, the guest becomes essentially a new man and goes off to live the rest of his life. Had the tale taken place at a funeral, the heavy feeling of ending would have destroyed the symbolism of new beginnings. It could have been an ending for life, for happiness, and for everything else. If this had happened, then the fact that he rose the next day would not have been as significant. Therefore, the wedding is a very important symbol for this poem.

Another significant symbol throughout the poem is the albatross. It first appears in the first section and it is a symbol of good omen for the sailors. The albatross is a white bird, which is probably the reason why many Christians of the time saw it as a holy symbol. Because it was a white bird, which was a sign of righteousness, it therefore was considered a good omen. In this poem, the albatross symbolizes good fortune. When the Mariner kills the albatross, for absolutely no reason, the good fortune that has come upon the ship leaves. Symbolically, the Mariner did not kill a simple seabird, but instead an omen of good fortune, which is why...


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...riner took a gamble with his religion, and now the pair is taking a gamble for his life. Life-In-Death ultimately wins over Death in the game, and the Mariner’s shipmates die at his feet, yet he lives on.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a highly significant poem of a complex web of representation that is very dependent on symbolism. The symbols of the wedding, the albatross, the blood that the Mariner sucks in order to announce the ship and the game between Death and Life-In-Death are only a few of the symbols that add meaning and depth to the poem. If it were not for the symbols, the poem would simply be the story of a Mariner telling his tale to a wedding guest, and then the poem would have no meaning to anyone. When reading this poem, the reader can feel much like the wedding guest, entranced and hypnotized by the storyteller. This is because of the symbolism exhibited through the poem. Even if the reader of the poem does not fully understand the symbols in the verse, the intuitive mind will catch them and understand the detailed meaning. The symbols themselves in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner are therefore the part of the poem that makes it so intense and interesting.

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