The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner book cover
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How is the theme of "liminality" shown throughout Coleridge's epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

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"Liminality" is described very much like a philosophical "rite of passage:"

...being on the "threshold" of or between two different existential planes...

In Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, this concept can be seen in several ways. It is important to remember that as a Romantic writer, Coleridge stressed (among other things in this epic poem) a return to nature—having a respect for nature.

The mariner who narrates the story of his strange, heart-wrenching and life-altering experiences at sea stands several times on a "threshold" between one "plane" and another. We see it when he chooses to sacrifice the peace and happiness he has known when he kills the albatross; when his fate is in the balance, pulled between life and death; and, later as he moves from a place of ignorance and disregard for nature, to an enlightened existence that honors nature, though he still suffers for his lack of respect earlier.

The mariner tells of sailing on a ship which is accompanied by an albatross—a large sea bird.

At length did cross an Albatross:

Thorough the fog it came;

As if it had been a Christian soul,

We hailed it in God's name. (62-65)

But one day, the mariner shoots the bird with his bow—for no good reason. This changes his luck and that of all the members of the crew:

...With my cross-bow

I shot the Albatross. (80-81)

Soon the weather changes, and conditions on the ship become dire, especially due to a lack of water—hence the following famous lines:

Water, water, every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where,

Nor any drop to drink. (116-119)

It is at this point that the ship's crew punishes the mariner by hanging the dead albatross around...

(The entire section contains 601 words.)

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