Coleridge’s Use of the Narrative Method in Part 7 of the Ancient Mariner

January 10, 2019 by Essay Writer

Part 7 forms the dramatic climax of the poem in which the Mariner returns to his own “countree”. Coleridge uses the focal character, the eponymous Ancient Mariner, to narrate the aftermath of the journey and his life since and includes dialogue from the pilot, his boy and, most significantly, the Hermit to make clear the moral of the poem. That the Wedding Guest is not given direct speech as the Mariner concludes his tale can also be seen as significant, suggesting to the reader that as he is a “sadder and wiser” man, he cannot find the words to respond to the Mariner’s tale. The omniscient narrator concludes the tale, completing the “frame” of the narrative and perhaps introducing more credibility to the Mariner’s tale: this external voice prevents the reader from dismissing the Mariner’s narrative as the ramblings of a “grey-beard loon”.Like the rest of the poem, Part 7 draws on elements of the ballad form such as use of the quatrain stanza form, but it is in this concluding section that we see Coleridge stray the furthest from the traditional form, perhaps to emphasise the changes in the Mariner’s life: although the setting has moved from sea to land, the Mariner’s life has been irrevocably changed by his experiences. Coleridge varies stanza length throughout Part 7 and also uses enjambment between stanzas which can be seen to reflect the idea there is not defined ending to the poem: the Mariner’s journey will continue. There is also little evidence of the internal rhyme so prevalent in earlier sections of the poem. The effect of this had been to draw the auditor, the Wedding Guest, –and by extension the reader- in as it created and almost chant- like, hypnotic feel, compelling us to listen. However, by this point, the Mariner is aware he has our full attention.Coleridge’s use of a variety of poetic methods adds to this many-layered poem and enables us to have a deeper understanding of Coleridge’s themes and ideas, particularly here, the idea of “the one life”, often seen as the poet’s central message. The introduction of the Hermit is a key as he serves as a parallel to the Mariner. He prays at an “oak stump” and this symbol illustrates how his closeness to Nature reflects a closeness to God. The oak traditionally has connotations of wisdom and in this case Coleridge is presenting the Hermit’s way of life as a good and desirable one. In direct contrast with the Mariner who shot the innocent albatross and the Wedding Guest who sees merriment rather than solemnity in the wedding ceremony, the Hermit is at one with God through his complete integration with the world around him. Furthermore, when the pilot and his boy are driven to the emotional extremes of fear and madness by the Mariner’s macabre ship, the Hermit prays, paralleling the comfort the Mariner felt when he blessed the water snakes. Coleridge’s nature imagery can also be seen as significant at this point. The idea of the wolf that “eats the she-wolf’s young” suggests a perversion of nature, a creature killing its own, which can be seen as a metaphor for the Mariner’s killing of the albatross. Indeed, there are many images in this section of the poem that parallel earlier images. The ship sinks “like lead”, repeating the simile used when the albatross is released from the Mariner’s neck. The supernatural forces and noises surrounding the ship here are echoes of earlier similar Gothic images and the way the Mariner finds himself lifted “swift as dreams” in to the boat perhaps serves to remind the reader of the sailor’s dreams of the spirit when the ship is becalmed. Coleridge’s use of onomatopoeia and assonance helps to immerse the reader in the Mariner’s nightmare. Using sensory imagery that is not only visual, but auditory too, enables us to envisage the scene more clearly. Plunging us in to this nightmare world enables us to appreciate the validity of the alternative life promised by the moral. Repetition of the lines “Alone on a wide wide sea” is of particular significance here. This line metaphorically suggests the Mariner’s continuing isolation from the rest of humanity even after returning home which is emphasised in the long assonant vowel sounds of “i” in “wide”.What is considered by many to be the moral of the poem is contained here in the lines that follow “He prayeth best that loveth best” and this explains the introduction of the Hermit as a concrete example of how to integrate with nature, in contrast to the Mariner who has broken the rules of the “one life” and is punished. The lack of Gothic elements in the final lines of the poem can be seen to symbolise that the “nightmare” of the Mariner’s journey has ended as he has returned from “Where God scarce seemed to be” to where the “kirk” of his home town symbolises God watching over the people. The focus in the final lines shifts to the Wedding Guest, with a return to the omniscient narrator, perhaps indicating to the reader that the Mariner’s work is done now his tale is told. The embedded narrative has been completed and now the frame narrative has concluded. We are returned to the beginning of the poem just as the Mariner must now seek another audience to hear his cautionary tale.

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