Revision:English literature-the rime of the ancient mariner criticism

The Albatross

Richard Holmes: 'a green parable' due to the symbolic killing of a natural creature showing 'man's destructive effect on the natural world'.

Christine Avery: the albatross represents 'life itself' and its death then provides a warning of 'complete ecological disaster'

'I shot the Albatross'-many see it as a 'trivial, token act' but Christine Avery describes it as representing 'every act of mindless cruelty, all failure to respect and feel with other life forms.'

It's interaction with the soldiers represents a 'universal complicity' (Christine Avery)

The Wedding Guest

Christine Avery: an 'Everyman figure'-deliberately ambiguous

The Mariner

Christine Avery: 'kind of prophet'

Wordsworth: 'principal person has no distinct character'


Christine Avery: 'Christian poem' differing from most Romantic texts

Christine Avery: 'a key text and inspiration for Christian spirituality'

Fulmer: the moral of the poem is 'unjust, unchristian and invalid as a law of religion'

Fruman: 'morally bizarre' universe where the whole crew died for the Mariner's act (this could possibly be seen as a message in itself-if Jesus hadn't died to save Christians this could be the effect)

Burke: 'Christian in both myth and symbol'; 'Biblical myth' (archaic language and form perhaps backs this up)

Unknown critic: 'Symbolic parallel between the Mariner and Adam' (possibly a 'Romantic version of the Fall' of man in Genesis)

Literary Techniques

Christine Avery: 'sensuous imagery and evocation of archetypal emotions'

Christine Avery: 'cross imagery'-the Mariner represents Christ in that he has to bear the punishment for all the soldiers who post approved the killing of the Albatross. The Albatross is also a Christ like figure, it hangs around the Mariner's neck as a crucifix does and is seen as a sacrifice which leads to the Mariner being so touched he has to tell his story over the world much like a prophet or disciple.

Multiple meanings/ambiguous language-'In Hebrew, Latin, Greek and many other languages the words for wind, breath, soul and inspiration are all identical or related' (Stillinger). Therefore, the lack of wind may symbolise lack of soul/spirituality/inspiration.

Dramatic irony of the Mariner blessing the sea snakes before the Albatross falls from his neck, the serpent in the Bible represents temptation/Evil. In this poem they are symbols of salvation/realisation/spiritual discovery.

The use of water throughout is also symbolic, it represents purity and is used in Christian Baptisms therefore the lack of it at one point symbolises more than the physical lack of water.

Other Information

Originally for LTB5 AQA B English Litarature old specification, however suitable for exam boards focussing on critical approaches and literary techniques.