Alice Chandler’s “Structure and Symbol in Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, discusses the use of arrangement and symbolism in Samuel Coleridge poem. Chandler explains how Coleridge use of repetition and linkage as a way to covey an imagery change or shift in the Mariner’s life.
The Albatross is a significant symbolism in this poem. The bird is an omen of good fortune to the Mariner and his crew because it helped guide the ship to safety. Once the Mariner does a senseless act of killing the albatross he had committed a crime much greater than a simple sin. He had killed one of God’s creations. Nature starts to change drastically from here on. His crew mates hung the dead albatross over his neck to serve as a burden that he must carry (penance) as a reminder of his sin, i.e. similar image of Christ on a cross. From there he goes through a journey of life and death, heaven and hell and everything in between in order to learn from his mistake.
During the course of the trip he goes from normalcy, sinning, purgatory, salvation to rebirth. To begin the healing process the mariner must ask for forgiveness and face his punishment just as a soul struggles to rid itself of evil as it’s baptized. In time he sees the slimy sea serpents in the sea and realizes that even these rotten creatures, along with the albatross, are beautiful in the eyes of God.
Some other symbolisms that Chandler discusses are Coleridge private symbols of circles and clefts. In the poem circular movement in a sign of holiness and cleft or cracks usually symbolize a break through in new life, usually good. Coleridge uses these image a few times echoing the meaning and association from the others.
Modulation is one of the other techniques that he uses to display the supernatural appearances. There are many references to God that is made as well as the Ancient Mariner’s slaying of the albatross is equal to Adam and Eve eating the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden.
The sun and moon play a significant role in the poem. Sun represent God, which reference to Christian concept of vengeful, wrathful, bad, disturbance usually happen during the day; calm, favorable things occur during the night. For example, the mariner’s curse lifts and he returns home by moonlight.
Some reoccurring themes that Chandler regularly mentions throughout include nature, both in its beauty and horror. While reading this poem, I wasn’t able to fully comprehend the phase that the Mariner was experiencing. It’s a cycle; he sins by killing the holy bird then obtain salvation by understanding his wrong doings to later gaining redemption and rebirth.
Coleridge sees nature as a motion. “In his loneliness and fixedness (the Mariner) yearned towards the journeying Moon, and the stars that…still move onward.” Emphasizing that motion is the symbol of living nature. The Mariner went from no love to burning hell for the punishment of his act. After the immobility of the wind, sea and ship the motion of the moon breaks the spell. It reappearance corresponds with his readiness to move on (emerging life).
As his perception changes he no longer focus on the dead men on the ship, but on the living beings in the ocean. He sees then is a different light. The adjectives “rich,” “glossy,” and “velvet” are now transformed from terror back to beauty. Coleridge uses color to show the transformation from one scene to another. For the color clash between rose and coppery red is the conflict between normalcy and guilt. The images of dryness and stillness, adding the color black “with black lips baked” add to the spectrum of death associated hues.
With the appearance of the albatross it calms nature and human were able to enjoy life in unfavorable conditions. The Mariner’s mix feelings are significant, for his transformation from hell to blessed is at the heart of the poem. The whole moral of this story is the purpose of one man’s act of evil affects him and the people around him. Coleridge poem is heavily influenced by religious imagery and motifs. The Mariner represents many of the corruption that is affecting our society today.