How does Coleridge tell the story in part 1 of Rime of the Ancient Mariner?

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How does Coleridge tell the story in part 1?                                                        Úna Richards 04/04/2013

As part 1 is the first of all parts in Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, we are introduced to the characters in the poem and Coleridge establishes the setting of the poem. ‘It is an ancient Mariner…he stoppeth one of three.’ The impersonal pronoun of ‘it’ suggests that this Mariner may not be human, however there is a change in pronoun with ‘he’, implying a liminal state of the Mariner; he is somewhere in between being supernatural and mortality, reinforced by the word, ‘ancient’. Coleridge’s use of archaic language is used to take the reader back in time to a bygone era, as well as acting as an indicator of setting. The Wedding Guest describes the Mariner in an other-worldly way, having a ‘long grey beard and glittering eye’; both the beard and the singular glittering eye possess connotations of wizardry and reinforce the idea that the Mariner may be a supernatural being. Coleridge creates a number of contrasts between the 1st and 2nd stanzas. The 2nd stanza is used to represent a ‘normal’ world, a world that the Mariner can never be a part of. In the stanza, ‘the Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide’, the word, ‘wide’, is juxtaposed by the Mariner’s unnatural obstruction to the Guest in the previous stanza, as well as to the potential story of the wedding. There is also a contrast between the tones of the stanzas, the atmosphere in the 1st stanza is particularly eerie, but we are presented with an upbeat tone and pace in the 2nd stanza, demonstrated through Coleridge’s use of internal rhyme, ‘the guests are met, the feast is set’. The festive imagery emphasises the upbeat nature of the stanza, ‘feast’, and ‘merry’.

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The 3rd and 4th stanzas are used by Coleridge to illustrate the extent of power that the Mariner has over the Guest. The Mariner ‘holds him with his skinny hand’, here, the Mariner has been able to physically obtain him against his will. The Mariner fails to answer the Guest’s question in the 1st stanza and begins, ‘there was a ship,’ here, this particular narrative gap creates suspense, adding to the poem’s tension. The Guest is unhappy and conveys his pain and anger through imperative sentence structure, ‘hold off! unhand me.’ The structural device of exclamation also emphasises the pain felt by ...

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