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How does Coleridge manage to “chill the spine” in his poem Christabel?

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English Coursework How does Coleridge manage to "chill the spine" in his poem Christabel? The story of Christabel is a true Gothic tale. When one thinks of Gothic one's mind might see hideous monsters, dark forests, moats and medieval castles. For example the story of Frankenstein that has the hall marks of a classic "spine chiller". Just the style Christabel is written sends tingles down ones spine, a girl in a dark forest after midnight sends spooky messages to our brain. The plot of the story almost could be described as a "chilling factor"; the loss of innocence from a young girl, even worse is the fact that she can't confess the deed. Geraldine doesn't give Christabel the right to confess her sins which means she will ever be with a weight on her shoulders. As it says in the poem it will "weight her down". Coleridge also manages to awaken the senses and use them to good effect to make his poem seem all the more 'scary'. But sometimes it is the lack of the senses and sound that make the story even more 'menacing'. ...read more.


Throughout the poem there is a supernatural element to the story. For example Geraldine seems set to thank her "gracious starts" instead of, like Christabel, the Virgin Mary who is the protector of all young women. The mention of "gracious stars" is meant to make the reader think of astrology which was often linked with witches and other supernatural beings. Geraldine can't thank the "virgin all divine" like Christabel because, according to her, she "cannot talk for weariness", but yet she is fine to walk, for the moment anyway. What is worse than this is the fact that when Geraldine and her 'saviour' Christabel do reach the castle Geraldine faints "belike through pain", so as it seems the natural thing for someone with the character of Christabel she carries her across the thresh hold, just like Saint Christopher carrying Jesus Christ across the river. But when she lays her down on the other side she seems fine to walk again, in fact Coleridge says "the lady rose again, and moved, as she not in pain". This is most disturbing as it brings back the memories of the stories that evil has to be invited into the house, for example the myth goes that a vampire can't enter ones house unless invited into the home. ...read more.


He seems worried about what is going to happen to Christabel as if trying to coax the reader into feeling this as well. For example "Jesu, Maria, shield her well" and "O shield her! shield sweet Christabel". As they make their way to Christabel's room she tries her best not to wake her father, this is ironic, as he seems the only one who could possibly save Christabel from the fate that will surely await her if she goes with Geraldine to her room on her own, this is the loss of her innocence. Then, adding to the supernaturalism of the story is Christabel's mother who died in childbirth. Her ghost, which Christabel cannot see, comes to Geraldine to try and ward her off her daughter, but to no avail, she is sent away by the words "bid thee flee" from Geraldine. Throughout the story one feels that they know what will happen to Christabel before she does herself, this could have something to do with her innocence, as she doesn't suspect anything, very much like a child. This adds a feeling of suspense and even annoyance at her 'blindness'. Coleridge throughout the poem adds "chilling" factors, some obvious and some more subtle but in the end they all lead to a 'spine-chilling story'. ...read more.

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