The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner Essay

The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner Essay

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What do these three people have in common? A child dropped off for his first day of kindergarten, a girl receiving her driver’s license and a boy preparing to move out for his first year of university. The answer: they have crossed the liminal stage and entered a new phase of life. Liminality, or the liminal stage, a term coined by University of Chicago anthropologist Victor Turner, is the transitional stage one crosses as they pass through into a new stage of life. Ambiguity fills this indeterminate period as one attempts to find their place, role and status at home or in life, all while on the outside looking in. From this outsider’s point of view, many artists have addressed serious matters such as religion, societal constructs and the individual’s role in society. Included in this group of artists was poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In his epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge uses the idea of liminality to portray the Mariner’s eternal damnation and everlasting search for atonement in the paradoxical state of life-in-death, as well as to relate to the liminal, transitional states everyone, including myself, passes through throughout their lifetime.
Coleridge’s continuous use of ambiguity throughout the epic contributes to the Mariner’s search for penance in the liminal supernatural world, and describes the obscure and vague nature of liminality. In Part V, Mary Queen grants the Mariner the blessing of the “gentle sleep from Heaven”, in which the Mariner dreams of water. When the Mariner wakes up, it storms. However, Coleridge’s ambiguity implies that the Mariner might not actually be awake. As the Mariner’s crew rises up from the dead, he remarks that “it had been strange, even in a dream/To have seen those ...


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...miliar with, and had just begun to settle into.
Everyone has to pass through liminal stages and experience the ambiguity and the paradox of being in between two life stages, as well as become comfortable and familiar with their new surroundings in order to integrate into their new places in society. In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the cursed Mariner passes through the liminal supernatural world as a form penance, and emerges into the real world as a wise man who preaches love and community in God’s sake (Part VII). In this way, liminality teaches lessons. The Mariner had to kill the Mariner and experience the supernatural world in order to learn how to become wiser, more compassionate and more religious. Like the Mariner, I must pass through this paradoxical state in order to become wiser, more responsible and more independent to finally integrate into adulthood.

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