The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in Relation to Frankenstein

In relation to Frankenstein, as written by Mary Shelley, there are many points of intersection between both reality and the stories portrayed in Shelley’s novel and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Coleridge’s poem has acted as a major source of influence for Shelley, as evident through its presence in her life and in its literal and metaphorical translation in Frankenstein. I chose to use Coleridge’s poem as, before AP, I had never fully recognized the parallels within different pieces, much less a poem, and the true connectedness that literature allows us to have in all aspects of the human condition – this realization has truly resonated within me; I was, and still am, in awe of the discussions that we had in our socratics and wished to expand on this topic further.

Coleridge was a close companion with William Godwin, Shelley’s father, and though they were in conflict on many philosophical topics (Coleridge was also a large force in the Romantic movement in England, thus justifying Shelley’s style of writing), he remained ever present in the Godwin’s household. Through research, I found that Shelley had hid behind a sofa and heard Coleridge recite The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and evidently it resonated deeply within her. Coleridge was said to be very idealistic and a romantic individual and views similar to this are seen throughout Shelley’s novel. The character of Victor Frankenstein could also have been influenced by Coleridge (though our socratics, specifically that pertaining to Shelley’s biography, have convinced me he was not a major influence); I had found that he had endured multiple tragedies in his life, such as the debilitating periods of depression, opium addictions, separation from his wife, and health conditions. He is now considered to have had bipolar disorder, though this was not confirmed during his lifetime. Coleridge’s opium addiction was caused as a result of taking laudanum as a treatment for an illness, as did Frankenstein, and he overdosed at times as stated on page 199 of Shelley’s novel, “Ever since my recovery from the fever I had been in the custom of taking every night a small quantity of laudanum…I now swallowed double my usual quantity…” These tragedies supposedly caused Coleridge to become reclusive and grim, as similar to Frankenstein’s conscious isolation when he was confronted with his monster and his actions, though also in the sense that Frankenstein too went through bouts of extreme emotion and anxiety before being able to reintegrate into society.

Moreover, there are also an abundance of parallels between the stories of Frankenstein and The Rime of The Ancient Mariner. For instance, both act as cautionary tales in the dealings with natural life and death. While Frankenstein created an initially pure being, Coleridge’s Mariner’s actions led to the destruction of a pure being, and it is in this manner that the Mariner and Frankenstein are reflections of each other. These characters are repulsed by their actions that test the borders of natural life and death, and thus are consumed by the guilt of their actions. Furthermore, both characters are haunted by the dead, as seen through Frankenstein’s thoughts on page 222, “How did I cling to [my friends and family’s] dear forms, as sometimes they haunted even my waking hours, and persuade myself that they still lived,” and through Part VI of the Mariner’s narration in which he hears voices and sees his deceased shipmates. Likewise, Frankenstein and the Mariner can relate in terms of their isolation due to their actions, though Frankenstein, unlike the Mariner, does not feel trapped by his isolation. The consumption of guilt that the protagonists experience are also parallels; both confided in others as the weight of their guilt was too heavy a burden, and through the telling of their stories, they were able to temporarily transfer this guilt. Frankenstein tells Walton, in a sermon – like manner, as does the Mariner, but to the wedding guest. Shelley also references the poem multiple times in Frankenstein such as in chapter 5, page 60, and in Walton’s second letter, where he states he “shall kill no albatross” and specifically mentions the Ancient Mariner (17). While the stories may differ in their narrative, the underlying messages interconnect – in their creation/destruction of a pure being, both protagonists exemplify the need to love all, not foolishly pursue their ambitions, or one must face the consequences of their actions in regards to breaking the barrier between natural, and hence pure, life through the use of a cautionary tale. Through an excerpt taken from part VII of the poem the previous statement can be supported as the Mariner states, “Farewell, farewell! but this I tell/To thee, thou Wedding Guest!/He prayeth well, who loveth well/Both man and bird and beast/ He prayeth best, who loveth best/ All things both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all,” and, as Frankenstein has said, to “never allow passion or a transitory desire to disturb [your] tranquility.”(56)

As previously mentioned, I had not realized these parallels, though the recognition of them has allowed me to become more appreciative of literature, more specifically of, Frankenstein and poems, such as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
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6 thoughts on “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in Relation to Frankenstein

  1. Dear Shyla,

    I would like to commend you on your excellent analysis skills that are evident in this piece. Being a member of your family group, I too had the ability to study The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and while I was able to find some deep connections between it and Frankenstein, I am blown away by the amount of depth you put into this analysis. Going as far as researching Coleridge’s past life and mental health and linking that back to specifics about Frankenstein’s character, as well as linking exact quotes between the two pieces elevated your argument and made for a convincing and powerful response.
    I have noticed the strength in your writing over the course of the semester thus far, and I find that you have an outstanding ability to translate your ideas in a way that is concise but specific. I applaud your having such a such a skill, and for using it in ways that resonate with your audience. I can say truthfully that I have experienced many “AHA” moments with you after reading your writing or hearing you contribute your ideas in class.
    Keep up your great work!
    With love,
    Yas

  2. Dearest Shyla,

    Wow! Thank you for writing such an incite full and meaningful piece to share with the class! There was so much connection between the poem and Frankenstein that I had not realized – even after our Socratic. Amazing work.

    I especially loved the connections you made between Coleridge and Frankenstein; I myself had not looked at Coleridge’s biography, and the connections you made between the two men were truly eye opening. Some of the said connections that really made me interested were the opium addiction similarities, and the mental struggles showcased within both Coleridge and Frankenstein. As it is believed, as you said, that Coleridge had Bipolar Disorder, I wonder: could the SAME be said for Frankenstein?

    One tip I would offer to you for the future is to perhaps watch your clarity. At times (not always!), I had to reread a sentence to understand what you were trying to say. I struggle a lot with this myself, to be quite honest, and it’s especially trickier to achieve clarity when you have such intricate ideas. Again, this only happened once or twice, and the depth of your connections absolutely made me forget about it! 🙂

    I loved this piece Shyla, and I cannot wait to read more of your writing! Keep up the amazing work!

    Sincerely,

    Carmen 🙂

  3. Dear Yasmeen,

    Thank you so much for the comment! I really appreciate it, and being your family group, I have had many “aha moments” after hearing you speak as well. It is because of you and the rest of the members of our family group that I have learned so much about analyzing – last year there was no way that I could have even thought about writing a blog like this.

    Sincerely,

    Shyla

  4. Dear Carmen,

    Thank you for the comment, I am truly grateful for your insight on my writing. Also, I had not even thought of the possibility of Frankenstein having Bipolar Disorder as well! After you had mentioned it, it made complete sense and justified the way Frankenstein had acted in certain scenarios. Thanks for bringing that up!

    In the past, I have had some issues with clarity, and it is something that I definitely agree I need to work on.

    Thanks again,

    Shyla

  5. Dear Shyla,

    This piece was beautifully written, you truly captured the significant points that connect Frankenstein and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. “I had never fully recognized the parallels within different pieces, much less a poem, and the true connectedness that literature allows us to have in all aspects of the human condition.” This sentence really reasoned with me because I completely understand how you feel. Before we had the class discussions, I had never understood the parallels that intertwine with each other in different pieces of literature. It’s truly amazing how many other stories one story can hold. I also want to thank you. I want to thank you because this piece really brought to light many questions that I’ve had but were never answered. As a part of the audience, I can say the amount of thought put into this piece this is strongly evident.
    I would recommend to split your information into smaller paragraphs. This may be only me, but I sometimes have a hard time reading so many words constructed together, sometimes my eyes just skip over sentences and I loose track of where I was. In connection to this piece, there was only a very tiny amount of it that stood out to me, other than that, this piece was a wonderful read.

    I absolutely loved it!

    Smiles,

    Judy

  6. Dear Judy,

    Thank you so much for the comment! I completely understand how you felt about the parallels in literature. “It’s truly amazing how many other stories one story can hold” – a beautiful way to summarize it. I will break up my paragraphs more next time – I do the same thing where I sometimes skip over sentences because there are so many words together.

    Thanks again, I am glad that this piece resonated with you.

    Sincerely,

    Shyla

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