Draw a comparison between “Christabel” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen.

The poem “Christabel” and the novella The Great God Pan share the elements of the corruption of the innocent by the wicked, a beautiful woman who is not what she seems and actually bewitches others, and a possibly part-supernatural character who is evil.

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The unfinished poem “Christabel” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the novella The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen share some similar elements, although their settings are quite different.

Both works speak of the corruption of the innocent by the wicked. In “Christabel,” the title character falls under the spell of Geraldine, a beautiful woman she rescues from the woods one night. Geraldine tells Christabel that she had been kidnapped by a group of men, and Christabel feels sorry for her and takes her home. Geraldine, however, is not as she appears on the surface. She is something evil, and she puts a spell on Christabel. Christabel cannot say what is wrong with her, but she knows the next morning that it is due to Geraldine, who claims to be the daughter of an old friend of her father. Christabel's father, Sir Leoline, welcomes Geraldine and sees in her the possibility of a reconciliation with his friend from whom he has long been estranged. Christabel, who has realized that Geraldine is not who she seems, tries to tell her father to send the woman away, but she cannot express herself any further because of the spell. Her father becomes angry with her. Here the poem breaks off, but we know that the innocent Christabel has been corrupted and bewitched by the wicked Geraldine.

The Great God Pan also shows the corruption of the innocent by the wicked. The novella begins with an account of the corruption of the innocent Mary, only Mary is corrupted through Dr. Raymond's experiment in which he does brain surgery on the young woman to allow her access to the spiritual world. She wakes up terrified and then loses her senses altogether, similar to the way Christabel becomes nearly helpless at the end of the poem.

The novella then goes on to describe the corrupting influence of the girl Helen Vaughan, who would take other children out into the woods to “play.” They would come back highly disturbed, and sometimes they wouldn't come back at all. Like Geraldine in the poem, Helen brings these innocent ones under her spell. Later in the novella, the narrator tells of the adult Helen's still-corrupting influence over her husband and other men. Yet these men are much attracted to her and pity her as Sir Leoline did with regard to Geraldine. Helen always seems to bring people to bad ends, much like Geraldine may have done if Coleridge had finished his poem and told the rest of the story.

Finally, while we do not know for sure if Geraldine is a supernatural being, we can infer that she might be based on her weakness as she crosses the threshold of Sir Leoline's castle, as well as her serpent-like eyes and the Bard Bracy's dream of an unholy thing in the woods. In the novella, we discover at the end that Helen, too, may not be fully human but rather the daughter of Mary (the victim of the experiment) and the god Pan.

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