What narrative techniques are used in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Several narrative techniques are employed. First, the poem is a frame tale. It begins with the old mariner stopping three guests on their way to a wedding. To one of these wedding guests, the old mariner tells his fantastic story. The poem concludes with the mariner finishing his conversation with the wedding guest. Therefore, the mariner's encounter with the wedding guest frames the main story of the voyage.

By beginning the story with the frame, the story then employs flashback, taking the reader back to the time of the voyage itself. The events are then related in chronological order.

An unusual technique, perhaps, is a dramatic technique. The mariner's telling the story is structured as a dramatic monolog, but from time to time, the narrator interrupts, thus returning the reader to the setting of the frame. The reader in this sense is watching a dramatic scene in which one "actor" tells a story to another "actor." In his poem, Coleridge gives the reader two separate stories. The mariner's effect on the wedding guest emphasizes the compelling nature of the mariner himself, as well as the story he has lived to tell.

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