The Similarities and Differences in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
The Romantic period brought creativity and thinking for oneself into English literature. Nature is the focus and a major theme of both of the works. These texts continue to influence the literary and artistic worlds to this day. Samuel Coleridge was personally known to Mary Shelley. He was a frequent guest at her house where he read his works to Mary’s father. It is perhaps then that she heard the text of The Rime for the first time. The text of the poem appears in Frankenstein and it is referred to by Robert Walton.
Frankenstein and The Rime have a lot in common in almost every aspect. Characters and themes are very similar, and they play similarly important roles. Moreover, their structure is also close. In the beginning of Frankenstein, Robert Walton sets out on his journey to the North Pole. Walton writes letters to his sister to let her know how things are going. He tells her about strange things that occurred during his journey. They found a person called Victor Frankenstein who, after being brought back to spirits, tells the travellers his story. The Rime contains many figures but the main are that of the Mariner and the Wedding Guest to whom he tells about his adventure. The Mariner is out at sea with his crew who cares and cherishes an Albatross that they come across while at sea. The mariner chose to kill it, and he has to face the consequences. He is approached by Death and an Angel of Life who loved the creature and the mariner is found alone at sea after she rolls dice with the Mariner for the crew’s fate.
Another aspect of nature in the Romantic period’s context that can be seen in these texts is the “return to nature.” While Victor and the mariner appear to be similar, their stories have a slightly different ending. The mariner originally blames himself for the deaths of his crew, believing that he survived because he is as disgusting as the “thousand thousand slimy things” that live in the sea. However, he learns that he is not to blame for their deaths and that all life is beautiful. In contrast, Victor continues to blame himself for the deaths that occur in the wake of the creation that he believes is a monster that should no longer live. “Again do I vow vengeance; again do I devote thee, miserable fiend, to torture and death”. He believes that the creation not only deserves to die, but should be forced to suffer pains much worse than the ones he experienced from the creature’s entire existence. Victor follows his creation to the ends of the earth, just to become ill and die before he can end the miserable life that he created.
The Mariner kills the albatross, which symbolizes nature and Frankenstein creates the wretch out of body parts. For such interference he is later punished. The Mariner lost his crew and Frankenstein lost his wife and his father. In both stories the person who committed the crime against nature is punished by nature itself and only in The Rime is the offender forgiven, after he realizes how beautiful nature is and blesses it. Victor dies, sad and lonely, and his monster mourns over his dead body, with nothing left to live for, so he goes into solitude never to be seen again.
Because of their transgressions, both characters were doomed; they needed to be “reborn” into nature. The Mariner did that when he repented after killing the albatross and finally saw the beauty in the environment that he had been ignoring and blesses it. It can be argued that Victor Frankenstein achieved his “return to nature” when he died on Walter’s ship after telling his story. By doing this Mary Shelley gave it all a gothic touch.
Besides Mother Nature, there are other similar themes that appear in both texts. One of them is imprisonment. The Monster in Frankenstein is imprisoned by his wretchedness and repulsive appearance. However so is Victor in that he feels misunderstood. He is considered to be imprisoned or isolated in his own work and in his mind. He created the monster in complete solitude, and he does not want to share his story. The Mariner is left alone after his wrongdoing and everyone blames him for it even though he does not understand how bad his actions were.
One significant difference between Victor and The Mariner is that Frankenstein is obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge. He was always very eager to learn which eventually led to his ultimate creation and his downfall. The Mariner’s knowledge was his curse because he had to enlighten people with his depressing tale.
Transformation is another major theme within the texts. The two main characters of Frankenstein, Victor and the Monster go through a transformation before our eyes. The former finally realizes that he has done wrong and eventually dies. The Creature makes one of the most noticeable transformations as he gains not only knowledge of his surroundings and emotions, but also the knowledge of literature, language and more. Walton is also transformed through his letters to his sister, eventually deciding to go home at the end of the story. The Mariner began to notice the beauty of nature.
Finally, as mentioned before, both stories by Shelley and Coleridge are that of Storytelling, or the Frame Narrative. This way of writing helps create an emphasis on the main narrative and the characters within it. The characters are not only transformed within the story being told, but the story also effects and transforms the people that it is being told to.
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