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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Discussion Questions

Pick one question and answer it, employing college level analysis. The last
day the typed hard copy will be accepted is Friday. Points will be added to
those who turn the work in early. Be sure to cite secondary sources, if they
are utilized. No group should be larger than four people, or smaller than
two (which I realize is technically a pair), unless I give permission for it to
be. Feel free, however, to staple your own answer to the groups work, if
need be.
1. Symbols are important in the poem. Traditionally, snakes have represented both good (as in the
symbol for the medical profession, where they represent healing powers) and evil (as with the serpent
in the Garden of Eden). What other examples are there of the symbolic use of snakes? Explain why
Coleridge involved a water snake in the poem's climax.

2. In literature and folklore the human eye is typically considered a mirror of the soul. Discuss
Coleridge's use of this tradition, examining each of the incidents in which eyes are mentioned in the
poem (lines 3, 12, 139, 144, 215, 228, 251, 255, 260, 332, 416, 436, 440, 485, 560, 567, and 618).

3. In terms of the poem's theme, compare 'The very deep did rot: O Christ!/ That ever this should be!/
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs/ Upon the slimy sea' (11. 123-126) with 'O happy living things!
no tongue/ Their beauty might declare' (11. 282-283). Consider the idea of the appreciation of life and
the fact that 'a spring of love gushed' from the mariner's heart as he blessed the snakes 'unaware'.
He had killed the albatross in a thoughtless moment; why is it important that he bless the snakes
unthinkingly?

4. Discuss Coleridge's use of imagery in the poem, citing examples to verify your points.

5. Discuss the use of Christian elements in the poem.

6. How does Coleridge incorporate supernatural elements into the poem? What is the function of these
elements? How do the supernatural elements relate to the natural elements?

7. The poem is full of strange, macabre, uncanny or Gothic elements (Look up the literary criteria for
Gothic, if it is unfamiliar to you). Gothic horror fiction was very popular at the time it was written.
Discuss how these elements appear in the poem. You should consider, but do not have to analyze all of the
following elements:

the strange weather;

the albatross as a bird of good omen;

Death and Life-in-death;

the spirit from the land of mist and snow, and the two spirits the mariner hears in his trance;

the angelic spirits which move the bodies of the dead men;

the madness of the pilot and his boy;

the mariner's strange power of speech,

and anything else of interest.

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