10 July 2017
Supernatural Guilt: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Throughout our lifetime we will encounter many instances where we encounter the
unknown and somehow factor in guilt. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge carries
many aspects of nature, sin, storytelling, guilt, and the supernatural. How is this guilt used in the
poem? How are the supernatural elements considered a helping hand in delivering that guilt the
ancient mariner holds? With every claim we read that tries to dissect The Rime, we seem to
move further from the truth but stay within reach of each discussion. The supernatural theme
starts early in the poem and to grasp a hold on you. It forces you into the unknown where
anything is possible. The actions of the mariner have no reasoning behind them, that horror plays
the part of administering the guilt throughout the poem.
As we read along the poem we are instantly taken in my the supernatural. The minute the
ancient marine holds the wedding guest with his “glittering eye” (Coleridge, Part 1, line 13), we
are taken into the world of the mariner. The act of storytelling is strong here. The imagery holds
power over the wedding guest as he is forced to listen. As the story is underway we are told of
the guilt the ancient mariner holds. The mariner and his crew set sail and are accompanied by an
albatross (Coleridge, Part 1, lines 62-80). The albatross is good will that makes the crew stand
tall with faith, then the mariner shoots the bird down. The guilt that follows is blatantly obvious.
You are given this bird by Nature to help guide you and the mariner killed it, the crew is
obviously not happy. The Mariner is forced to wear the bird around his neck as a symbol of guilt.
"Instead of the cross, the Albatross / About my neck was hung". (Coleridge, Part 2, lines 141-
142). It is this guilt that sets in motion the rest of the supernatural decay of the crew. It brings a
sort of plague onto the mariner. Guilt in a sense controls the mariner from this point on:
“The fact that humans had an inherent inability to respond to moral demands--not just
individual demands, but the overarching demand to follow the Good.” (Stokes).
Stokes provides some evidence that we as a people will do almost anything to remain good. Guilt
eats away at a person and they try their best to make it seem righteous so some of their pride is
returned and they can become whole again.
From the beginning, we are given evidence that would support the claim of the
supernatural. The hypnotizing glittering eye, the ice fields that seem so unnatural, the way the
mariner kills the bird without a second thought all show a setup for true guilt. This supernatural
element delivers us into the unknown territory the mariner is facing. “The poem does this by
constantly confronting the reader within the same image with familiar and unfamiliar phenomena
that she/he has to synthesize into a meaningful whole.”...