Symbolism in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” Essay

Symbolism in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” Essay

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In 1798, Samuel Taylor Coleridge published his poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. Several editions followed this, the most notable being the 1815 version, which included a gloss. This poem has grown to become well known and debated, especially concerning the message that Coleridge was attempting to impart. The interpretation of the poem as a whole and of various characters, settings, and objects has been the subject of numerous essays, papers, books, and lectures. There are approximately four things that are major symbols in this work, along with the possibility that the structure itself is symbolic.
In order to best determine what these things symbolize in “The Rime”, one must look at what Coleridge considered a symbol to be and then analyze the text accordingly. James McKusick accomplishes this first task deftly, intertwining Coleridge’s own writings into his essay and then elucidating upon them so that the reader may understand Coleridge’s views, which should then influence how the poem is interpreted. In this, own discovers that Coleridge felt that to be a symbol, the object in question must be humble and of everyday life, while “bear[ing] witness to the presence of the Eternal.” The process of creating a symbol was two-fold in that “poetic images emerge fully formed from the … imagination, but they do not become symbols, laden with … meaning, until they are appropriated and reconstituted by the awareness of a reader” (McKusick 223). Thus, the purpose of a symbol was to convey the Eternal. One other important feature of Coleridge is that in creating a symbol, he often uses nature and its elements, as can be seen in “The Rime” (Bostetter 242, Perkins 433). Depending on the interpretation of the poem as whole w...


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... the poem and possibly implicate that it is also the center of the universe as well (Dilworth).
Interpretation of a literary work is often difficult to determine, but the author often leaves many hidden clues to help the reader along. Symbols are one of the primary features used by authors in this endeavor and Coleridge was no different in writing “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. Many other symbols besides the four major ones discussed exist, along with other literary characteristics possibly acting as symbols or simply assist in exposing the message the author wanted to divulge. Ultimately, the beauty of literature is the fact that each person may perceive it differently and not be incorrect, and through open-minded discussion people may share, create, and impart new pieces of wisdom, spread appreciation, and share the love of Christ as well.


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