What are some examples of personification and paradoxical imagery in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner?"  

Expert Answers
rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Three examples of personification in the poem are when the poet personifies the wind, the sun, and fear. Line 41 refers to the "storm-blast" as "he," and calls him "tyrannous and strong." Lines 179 - 180 describe the sun behind the ghost ship like a face peering through a "dungeon-grate" and also call it "he." In lines 204 - 205, the poet personifies fear, saying that it sipped at the mariner's heart "as at a cup." 

Paradoxical imagery is five-senses description that seems contradictory at first but actually makes sense when considered more deeply. One such description is "water, water, every where nor any drop to drink." This seems silly until one considers that the ocean is salt water and therefore not potable. The following line states, "The very deep did rot." Water cannot actually rot, and deep ocean water cannot decompose. But the speaker means that the sea was covered with slime, and the slime was being consumed by bacteria and other organisms. The speaker goes on to say, "Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs upon the slimy sea." This description seems impossible at first, for walking or crawling on water is not normal, but given the slime and the tiny creatures the poet is talking about, the description is accurate. Many descriptions of the ghost ship and the "ghastly crew" are paradoxical because the narrator is describing supernatural characters and events. Thus when the ghost ship sails to them "without a breeze, without a tide," it seems paradoxical, because sailing requires a breeze or tide to make the boat move. The female character on the ghost ship is the "Night-mare Life-in-Death," which is also a paradox, but when the reader understands that the mariner's sentence is to remain alive in the midst of death, it makes sense. That dead men can retain a curse in their eyes, can fail to decompose after seven days, and that they "all uprose" are states that contradict being dead, but the supernatural work of the spirits explains them. When the little seraph-men leave the dead men's corpses, they make no sound, but "the silence sank like music on my heart." Here the speaker provides another paradox, comparing silence to music, two mutually exclusive auditory experiences. 

Using literary devices including personification and paradoxical imagery, Coleridge weaves a gripping supernatural tale in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is lots of Personification throughout.  Most of it has to do with the sun.  The sun takes on human qualities and develops a pronoun of "he."

"The sun came up upon the left, Out of the see came he! And he shone bright, and on the right Went down into the see."

Then an example of a paradox could be when they are surrounded with water, yet cannot drink a drop.  They are dying of thirst, yet cannot drink the salt water.

"Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink."


Read the study guide:
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question