Why does this Coleridge passage appear in Frankenstein ? Like one who, on a lonely road, Doth walk in fear and dread, And, having once turned round, walks on,And turns no more his head; Because...

Why does this Coleridge passage appear in Frankenstein ?

Like one who, on a lonely road, 
Doth walk in fear and dread, 
And, having once turned round, walks on,
And turns no more his head; 
Because he knows a frightful fiend 
Doth close behind him tread.

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scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Mary Shelley makes several allusions to "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" in her novel.  This excerpt from the poem appears after Victor creates the Monster in Chapter 5, abandons him, and wanders the streets throughout the night.  It precisely complements Victor's actions and characterization because Victor was alone in his quest to create life and flees from the horror of what he has done once  reality strikes him.  Right before the Coleridge quote, Victor narrates,

"My heart palpitated in the sickness of fear, and I hurried on with irregular steps, not daring to look about me--" (45).

This way of thinking on Victor's part not only literally corresponds with lines 3 and 4 of the excerpt, but in a figurative sense, Victor had an opportunity to "turn his head" back to his apartment and take responsibility for his actions, but instead he leaves behind his creature and hopes to be able to escape the consequences by doing so.

Finally, Coleridge's use of the word "fiend" foreshadows Victor's view of his creature.  He often uses the term to describe the monster, ignoring the fiend within himself.

MaudlinStreet's profile pic

MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

When Mary Shelley was 8 years old, she heard Samuel Coleridge recite "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" in her parent's home. Mary Shelley was heavily influenced by the poetry of Coleridge, and Frankenstein is rich with allusions to "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." This excerpt from the poem parallels Victor's mood and actions. At this point, Victor is wandering the streets alone, contemplating the deaths of William and Justine, and his implicit guilt.  Of course, the shadow of his creation in constantly haunting him, and may well be following him down the road in this moment.

In the Gothic sense, Victor relates to the Mariner’s isolation and fear. In the Romantic sense, both the Mariner and Victor want the knowledge; however, unlike the Mariner, Victor’s new knowledge brings a curse along with it. Like the Mariner, Victor will live in isolation and fear. He seeks to tell his story to anyone who will listen, which turns out to be Walton. Walton is a mirror of the listeners of the Mariner's story in the poem. Thus Victor fulfills the comparison to the Mariner, haunted by his knowledge and his actions, tormented by his past.

nida1998's profile pic

nida1998 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

According to my Lit. teacher, Coleridge and Shelley actually knew each other. Coleridge often read 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' to Shelley, which is why Shelley has many references to the poem in 'Frankenstein'. Those who haven't read 'Frankenstein' often depict the monster as a zombie, simply an illiterate being who has come back from the dead. However, the readers well know that this is not true. The monster is in fact extremely literate, often referring to Victor as his creator (other biblical reference are also made). There is also a link between the monster and MARINERS. 

We should consider the fact that Shelley started writing the novel when she was only 18/19 years old. Teenagers in general are extremely influential. Basically, Coleridge had an impact on Shelley's writing which is why many Coleridge passages appear in Frankenstein. 

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