What does the mariner's not being able to speak signify in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"?

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lewismct eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Part IV of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the Mariner tries to pray but only a "wicked whisper came, and made/My heart as dry as dust."  The Mariner had killed the albatross showing a disregard for nature; his dead men lie on the rotting deck and when the Mariner looks at the rotting sea he sees "a thousand thousand slimy things."  It is not until the Mariner watches the water snakes in their rich attire of blue, glossy green, and velvet black and enjoys their beauty "Oh happy living things! no tongue/Their beautymight declare" and a "spring of love" gushes from his hear that he can pray "And the selfsame moment I could pray/And from my neck so free/The Albatross fell off, and sank/Like lead into the seas."

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

All of what you describe are ways of showing the mariner that he is not in control of his own world.  He must answer to a higher power, "God" and "Mother Nature."  Because he has disrespected the beauty of nature by shooting the albatross, he must now face the wrath of nature and God.  He is at their mercy.  I'm sure if the mariner had his choice, he would not want to travel around telling his story to the people who are meant to hear it.  It is his punishment and his way of redemption that he must tell his story over and over for the rest of his life.

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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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