Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s use of symbolism in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner lends the work to adults as a complex web of representation, rather than a simple story about a sailor.The author uses the story of a sailor and his adventures to reveal aspects of life.This tale follows the Mariner and his crew as they travel between the equator and the South Pole, and then back to England. Without the symbols, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner would be simply a poem about an old mariner who is telling a story about killing a bird to a guest at a wedding.
Of course, anyone who reads the poem can see that there is more to it than just a simple telling of a story. The first symbol in the poem is the wedding that the guest and the Mariner are at.This is a highly significant detail, because Coleridge could have made the story telling take place at any setting, but he chose a wedding.The reason for this was because a wedding is a very religious and very happy occasion.Weddings symbolize new beginnings and happiness.The reason that Coleridge decided to have this horrid tale told at a wedding could be for any number of reasons.I feel that the setting was chosen because of the new beginnings implied.
As the Mariner tells his tale, the guest is held captive and when the story is done, the guest becomes essentially a new man and goes off to live the rest of his life.Had the tale taken place at a funeral, the heavy feeling of ending would have destroyed the symbolism of new beginnings.It could have been an ending for life, for happiness, and for everything else.If this had happened, then the fact that he rose the next day would not have been as significant.
Therefore, the wedding is a very important symbol for this poem. Another significant symbol throughout the poem is the albatross.It first appears in the first section and it is a symbol of good omen for the sailors.The albatross is a white bird, which is probably the reason why many Christians of the time saw it as a holy symbol.Because it was a white bird, which was a sign of righteousness, it therefore was considered a good omen.In this poem, the albatross symbolizes good fortune.
When the Mariner kills the albatross, for absolutely no reason, the good fortune that has come upon the ship leaves.Symbolically, the Mariner did not kill a simple seabird, but instead an omen of good fortune, which is why all of the bad things happen to the sailors and the Mariner.Here is what the Mariner said in regards to the dead albatross: “Instead of the cross, the albatross about my neck was hung.”The albatross goes from being a symbol of good fortune to one of guilt when it is hung around the Mariner’s neck as a sign of what he has done.The guilt of the Mariner is another symbol.
The guilt is a morbid weight that stays around his neck until he can pray.This fact is a symbol of religion for the Mariner.The guilt of wronging one of God’s creatures hangs around the Mariner’s neck, making him weary and unable to pray.
Only when the Mariner realizes the beauty of God’s creatures and what he has done does the weight of the albatross and his guilt fall away.Once this happens the Mariner is again able to pray.The albatross is a complex symbol used throughout the poem many different ways, though it is only mentioned by name during the beginning part of the poem. After the albatross was hung around the neck of the Mariner, the good fortune has left the ship, and all of the sailors are starving and dehydrated, a form of a religious symbolism is revealed.The Mariner, starving and dehydrated, notices a shape in the distance, and realizes that it is a ship.