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Love According to Coleridge and Shelley
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
In Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Coleridge uses the tale of an old sailor to reveal what love is all about. In this story, The Mariner and his crew travel around the world and then head back to England.
Coleridge begins the story as an old sailor approaches three young men headed for a wedding celebration and talks one of them into listening to his story. The young man resists this interruption at first but is soon intrigued by the tale.
The old man tells him of his adventures on a ship with his crew. When the crew was sailing, a strong force pulled them in the direction of the South Pole, a "land of ice, and of fearful sounds, where no living thing was to be seen," and the crew was helpless and afraid. When the crew saw an albatross, a large seabird, they were relieved, believing it to be a sign from God.
The albatross followed the ship as it went northbound again. However, the old Mariner grew tired of the bird's constant presence and shot it with his crossbow, bringing a curse to the ship.
Coleridge reveals that the Albatross loved the Mariner who shot him yet stresses that the Mariner could not love him back.
The old sailor's curse eventually kills all of his shipmates yet he alone is spared. The Mariner saw two figures -- a Woman, Life-in-Death; and her companion, Death himself. The two were casting dice to see which of them would take control of the ship. Death won the entire ship's crew except for the Ancient Mariner, who was won by the Woman. His fate would be to live with his sin against nature after he watched his shipmates drop dead.
He was left on the ship in a state of despair and loneliness, yet still had a strong disregard for non-human life. However, one night, he stood staring at the moonlit water, as snakes swam nearby.
He was startled at their beauty, and felt a rush of love for these creatures, blessing them as the only other living things in his isolated world. Coleridge is showing his readers what he interprets love to be about.
A happy living things!," he cried. At that moment, the spell was broken. The Ancient Mariner was able to pray, and the albatross fell from his neck and sank "like lead into the sea." He fell into a deep sleep and was rejuvenated when he woke. He now understood love.
Coleridge uses symbolism to lend and exotic and supernatural feel to this otherwise simple work. The poem's ship is symbolic of the body of man. Just as man experiences everyday setbacks and emotions, the ship must endure everyday issues, as well. The ship carries the Mariner and his crew, as the body carries the soul. Coleridge makes an important point when he stresses the fact that no matter how skillfully man steers a boat, the boat's fate depends upon the winds and currents. Therefore, according to Coleridge, enjoying life's greatest things, such as love, is more important than mastering a skill.
Coleridge's albatross represents Jesus Christ. When the Mariner impulsively kills the bird, Coleridge is referring to how Christ was crucified for similar reasons. The albatross symbolizes the Mariner's one chance at rescue from death yet the Mariner kills him.
The Mariner is caught in "Life-in-Death" because of his incident with the albatross and is stuck in this loveless state until he is finally able to look at the "slimy things" in the ocean and bless "them unaware." Coleridge seems to be talking about the dryness of the Mariner's spirit and how it prevents shim from loving others and himself. Coleridge uses this example to reveal his feelings about love and how they apply to nature.
Coleridge's South Pole symbolizes Hell. The crew cannot see a wind that is pulling them toward the South Pole. It seems, instead, that an unseen force is pulling them in that direction. Coleridge is showing how the world's temptations lure one to Hell.
Coleridge showed a lack of love and compassion when he shot the albatross, and his actions were leading him to Hell. However, just as they get close, the spirit of the albatross, leads them back to safety. The albatross still love the Mariner even after it was shot by him.
England symbolizes Heaven in the story. When the Mariner first sees his country, a great sense of hope and joy overcome him. At the point when the Mariner is about to enter Heaven, the body, symbolized by the ship, must die. For this reason, the ship sinks. When the Pilot and his boy see the ship sinking, they go to retrieve the Mariner, just as angels retrieve a newly departed soul and carry it to Heaven.
The Mariner tells the young wedding guest that he has been obliged to travel from land to land, unaware of when the agony of his memories might return. However, he says, whenever he feels the curse darken his soul, he sees the face of a man with whom he must share his message of love and reverence for God's creation:
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.
The wedding guest is moved by this tale that when the old man leaves, he also departs, "a sadder and a wiser man."
Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" is largely about human nature, as she explores the human tendency to lust for power and how we deal with power when it is attained. Shelley appears to be saying that lust is often more highly regarded than love. In her story, Dr. Frankenstein played God, giving life to an inanimate body.
When he achieves this power, he retains his role of God by judging his creation. Instead of seeing the good monster, the doctor, as well as others around him, mistreat him and judge him based on his monstrous appearance. As a result, the monster reacts just as a typical human would.
A human child who is shunned and denied any human interaction cannot be blamed for negative actions. Most psychologists agree that neglect is one of the worst forms of abuse. A lack of love is what drove Frankenstein to practice destructive behavior. Shelley shows, through the monster, that love can cure the most reckless beings.
Shelley's ideas of love are revealed through Frankenstein's tale. Shelley asserts that a parents' love alone is not enough for a child's healthy development.
According to Shelley, love must be coupled with discipline and guidance. Without human interaction and guidance, Frankenstein was unable to develop into a healthy creature.
Shelley also shows how appearances affect the way we love. When Frankenstein was born, the monster had a strong capability for love yet no one gave him a chance because they were repulsed by his appearance.
Dr. Frankenstein's intense desire to succeed in doing what is considered impossible takes precedence over love, as his actions are ruled solely by his own selfish goals. This attitude ends up destroying him and those closest to him.
The doctor, according to Shelley, is unable to appreciate the beauty of life or his ability to create his own children and to share the love of a family. He rejects natural creation in favor of scientifically creating a live creature.
Although he is successful in bringing Frankenstein to life, one of the doctor's biggest flaws in his attempt to create a living being, is that he fails to nurture it as a parent would for his own child. In…[continue]
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