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The Ancient Mariner And Victor Frankenstein: Morality, Socialization, Action And Responsibility

2340 words - 9 pages

Mary Shelley, in her novel Frankenstein mentions Coleridge’s poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in several instances, undoubtedly connecting her character, Victor Frankenstein, to the character of the Ancient Mariner. There are several critics, such as Michelle Levy and Sarah Goodwin, who support the idea that Frankenstein and the Mariner share a common background. Enough so, that Shelley’s mention of the Mariner in her novel is acceptable. This is true in some ways regarding their tragic backgrounds and how both characters end up confessing their actions to others. However, Frankenstein and the Mariner have many differences when it comes down to how they ended up in their tragic situations and even what means to an end they hope to achieve by sharing their tragic stories. The biggest differences being, knowledge of what could come from their actions, and how they accept the responsibility of the deaths they caused. Shelley was undoubtedly influenced by Coleridge’s poem and while her use of the poem in her novel is interesting, and the notion of comparing the action of confession and equal lack of social “belongingness” between Frankenstein and the Mariner are comparable, the two characters run the risk of being too different to compare when thought about in depth.
From several character analyses, a popular subject to write about during the time of “The Ancient Mariner” and Frankenstein was the effect of colonization and the search for knowledge as well as what effect new lands had on one’s psychological health and the effect of these ventures on social relationships with family and friends. Both Shelley and Coleridge were “vociferously opposed to unregulated and irresponsible venturing into the unknown in the real world. As more than ever before was being written about previously unknown worlds whether they were found in a telescope or a microscope, on the seven seas or in a laboratory…” Here we can see the authorial attitudes of Coleridge and Shelley. Another influence on their writing would be society’s views on the new discoveries both scientifically and geologically as the explorer’s “displacement of God by science, or morality by materialism” of which both Victor Frankenstein and the Ancient Mariner suffer from in their separate works. They both lack “social belongingness” caused by their own different quests for knowledge and discovery fueled by their egoism. Both characters believed their discoveries would benefit the greater good of society but both ended up being sorely mistaken. While both characters tackle this rather large social and political issue of the time, as well as the issues of morality and spirituality, Coleridge and Shelley develop their prospective characters and how they react to their equally tragic situations very differently. Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner seems to come into his troubles through ignorance of action whereas Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein is aware of the moral consequences of his actions. He is...

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