The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner book cover
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I am struggling with understanding how "The Rime of an Ancient Mariner" uses storytelling for power and purpose. I know that storytelling is used for those two reasons (power and purpose), but I am...

I am struggling with understanding how "The Rime of an Ancient Mariner" uses storytelling for power and purpose. I know that storytelling is used for those two reasons (power and purpose), but I am struggling with understanding it. Could you help me understand how storytelling is used for power and purpose in "The Rime of an Ancient Mariner"?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Ancient Mariner, because of the great sufferings he has undergone, has a power of discernment and speech. He can discern or pick out the person who must hear his story. He says he knows this the moment he sees that person's face. As the mariner states:

I have strange power of speech;
That moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.

Beyond being able to choose the right face, the mariner has an extraordinary power as a storyteller. At first, the wedding guest wants nothing more to get into the room where the wedding is held, wishing to enjoy the food and partying that is going on there. Yet the Ancient Mariner has the power to hold him spellbound—and we as readers—by his ability to tell a story well.

At the end, the guest states that he is happier to have heard the mariner's story than gone to the wedding—and he has a renewed sense of faith, expressed in his desire to go to church:

O sweeter than the marriage-feast,
'Tis sweeter far to me,
To walk together to the kirk [church]
With a goodly company!

The mariner is driven to tell his story by a strong sense of purpose. He has learned an important life lesson the hard way, and he wants others to learn it before they have to go through what he has endured. He feels a deep compulsion or burning desire to tell his saga. As he states:

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns:
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.

The story he needs to tell is as follows. His killed a friendly albatross with his crossbow for no other reason that he felt like it and he could. He did it on a whim. In doing so, he showed how little he valued God's creation.

He and the rest of the crew were punished for this act. However, once the mariner learned the lesson God was trying to teach him: he was shown mercy. He grasped that:

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

This is the mariner's purpose: he wants to spread to people the truth that they should love all of God's creation because God created it all.

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