Identify imagery that caused the Mariner's despair in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Specific lines in Coleridge's poem point to the despair that the mariner experienced.  The reality of killing the bird, the slaughter of the albatross, cast heavy despair in the mariner.  Upon his action, a note of despairing reflection is seen: " And I had done a hellish thing,/And it would work 'em woe."   The mariner experiences a condition of despair that is seen with the imagery of "a hellish thing" and "work 'em woe."  In the revelation of such an action, the mariner expresses a condition of despair in his understanding that "I had killed the bird."  Further evidence of this state of despair could be seen with "'Twas as sad as sad could be."  This is a statement in which despair is evident.  In these moments, the mariner's realization as to what he has done and the implications of such an action helps to illuminate the overall meaning of the poem.  It is only though this despair that the mariner can be redeemed.  His redemption is the result of enduring the pain of despair that becoes his being upon the killing of the bird.


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