How do the sailors ally themselves to the crime and make themselves accomplices after the fact? 2 ways.
The sailors of the ship seem to become accessories in the killing of the bird. After the slaying of the albatross, the thoughts of the mariner and the reactions of the crew are expressed clearly: “And I had done a hellish thing, and it would work ‘em woe: For all averred, I killed the bird that made the breeze to blow. Ah wretch! Said they, the bird to slay that made the breeze to blow.” In this verse, the crew does not seem to show compassion for the bird, but only think of themselves: “And it would work ‘em woe.” They seem to only worry about the breeze and how the ship will travel. The sailors, like the mariner do not see the true significance of killing one of God’s creatures. Thereafter however, the fog clears and the ship starts moving again. The crew then believe that it was a good deed to kill the albatross: “Twas right, said they, such birds to slay, that bring the fog and mist.” From this change of view, we cannot only see that they think of themselves but also that the sailors have no overriding principles of right and wrong. By agreeing to the killing of the albatross, they forsake and renounce the bird. However they also seem to regard God as being evil, because of the fact that they recognised the bird as a symbol of God and as bad luck or even an evil omen. The sailors are so wrapped up in themselves that they neglect to have sympathy or any compassion for the bird. The sailors seem to assist in the crime by not only agreeing to the killing of the bird in the end, but also for only thinking of themselves and having no compassion.
What is their punishment?
The punishment of the crew is death. Death may not seem like a great punishment in the context of the poem, but it is when the punishment is isolated in our everyday lives. Death is seen to be an average phase of life in the poem compared to the horrific images portrayed. The poem clearly describes the fate of the sailors: “They dropped down one by one.” This idea of death is introduced through grandiose imagery of Death and The Nightmare Life-in-Death. They both dice for the fates of the mariner and his crew. Although Life-in-Death wins and is given the fate of the mariner, the whole circumstance is a win-win situation, and Death is able to keep the lives of the mariner’s crewmates. Their punishment is extremely ideal in relation to the mariner’s punishment, and this is conveyed through Coleridge’s tone of voice. The death of the sailors is described to allow the reader to envisage souls and spirits flying away from their bodies. Coleridge literally states that “they fled.” Fled has connotations of a motivated escape, a drastic action for drastic circumstances. It accurately intensifies the haste at which the spirits fly away and it makes the world appear to be a nightmare from which they are escaping.
Although the mariner continues to live, his punishment is in some ways more terrible. Why?
Death in many ways would seem to be the ultimate punishment in any man’s case. This is because of the fact that death deprives you of your existence in this world physically and spiritually. People would not want to leave this world, which ultimately is ideal to reside in. Conversely a punishment of death would have been more ideal for the mariner, as living with the guilt would have been much worse: “And yet I [the mariner] could not die.” The mariner continues to exist but is essentially cut off from the very source of life in many ways. The mariner is stuck in absolute radical isolation and loneliness. He is stuck on the equator in the doldrums. He is surrounded by his crewmates, but they are all dead. Instead he is forever tormented in this isolation as the accusing eyes of the crewmates stare wide open. Their looks are hostile as they blame him for their fate. He is left with the consciousness of crime in his mind. He is also below the suppressing power of drought, under the “hot and copper sky” and at the mercy of the ‘bloody sun.” And yet there is “water water everywhere nor any drop to drink.” His whole world is dying of thirst and he is unable to gain any input needed from beyond. Hence he continues to be trapped in this state of punishment. Coleridge also intensifies the mariner’s drought through repeating this idea in different contexts: “And every tongue through utter drought was withered at the root.” Along with this ever-present drought is the vision of the environment interpreted by the mariner to be unbearable. It is almost as if his own eyes are punished by images of revolt. The mariner is not even able to appreciate the beauty and majesty of phosphorescent tracks of water: “The water like a witches oils. Burn green and blue and white.” To him the profound “radioactive” water looks like “death-fires.” His vision is contaminated with unnatural and evil visions. When the mariner is supposedly stuck in the Sargasso Sea, he sees the nature around him to be of disgusting images: “Yea, slimy things did crawl upon the slimy sea.” His scene is tainted to become horrific. The mariner is also cut off from God, and his prayers are unsuccessful: “I looked to heaven and tried to pray, but or ever a prayer had gushed, a wicked whisper came and made my heart as dry as dust.” Being cut off from God in the context of the text cuts him off from the very source of life. On a whole, the mariner is forced to endure isolation and drought. He is deprived of the beauty in the world and instead is given an unpleasant vision of his environment. The mariner is also deprived of a personal relationship with God. The mariner believes he has nothing to live for anymore, and instead his life is made unbearable. He would rather die than live in a world for no reason, experiencing torment never felt by a human being. Death would have been more preferable mainly for the reason that the mariner would not have to endure the suffering that awaits him in life: “The man hath penance done, and penance more will do.” His very existence is only for the means of eternal punishment.
How is he initially punished? (Life-in-Death Theme)
The mariner’s initial punishment can be seen by firstly examining Coleridge’s portrayal of a world without imagination. The mariner lives in a sterile wasteland bound by malevolence. His world is idle, isolated, and in stagnation. It is the punishment of being “half-alive” which the mariner finds unbearable. The mariner literally would rather die than exist in a state of suspended animation between life and death. The mariner exists, but he does not really live. Coleridge clearly states that the mariner is lifeless, though in some from of existence: “I moved, and could not feel my limbs: I was so light-almost I thought that I had died in sleep, and was a bless’ed ghost.” In this sense, the mariner can be seen to be equivalent to “The Nightmare Life-in-Death” as she too has both life and death within her. She has features that illustrate beauty and life: “Her lips were red, her looks were free, her locks were yellow as gold.” However, this all turns into a nightmare in the course of one line: “Her skin was as white as leprosy.” This line suggests a terrifying death-like side to “The Nightmare Life-in-Death.” Coleridge makes the same point through fantastical symbolism of the “spectre bark.” The ship or “naked hulk” is also half dead and half alive. The ship seems to be moving illustrating the “life” within it, however the physical description depicts a skeleton ship. On a different viewpoint the ship being stuck in limbo on the doldrums can also be seen to be a symbol of the mariner stuck between life and death. This punishment along with the fact that he is unable to die is enforced to be even more terrible by all the things in nature dieing; in contrast he is unable to. The mariner is forced to live out his crime in his imagination between his own life and the death of the albatross.
What is his final punishment and how does it represent the revenge of an ignored imagination.
The mariner’s final punishment is for him to be bound by suffering and anguish for eternity. Until he teaches his tale to “the man that must hear” him, his heart is made to burn in torment. This punishment forces him into never really returning home as he passes “from land to land” carrying with him his tale. Ultimately he is condemned to wander the world and is forced to re-live his crime by telling it to other men as a grave warning. The mariner denied his own imagination in the past when he failed to appreciate the feelings of the albatross. He is forced to tell his tale to the people who are trapped in a narrow materialistic world, just as he unwillingly narrated his tale to the wedding guest. The mariner was forced to introduce the importance of imagination to the guest, who in contrast was bound by wine, women and song. When Coleridge visualises the imagination, it is seen to gush out like a spring or a flood. It is a natural power, as imagination is all about creativity and images of nature. The mariner attempted to dam up the imagination, a very eloquent and powerful force. It is this same force that takes revenge on the mariner through his ultimate punishment. The creative force of imagination bursts out at its own will and takes dominance over the mariner. When this force bursts out, it literally hypnotises anyone who is in hearing range of this “strange power of speech.” It is this imagination that made the wedding guest “listen like a three years’ child.” The imagination bursts out with renewed power and takes revenge on the mariner. It punishes the mariner for ignoring it and it temporarily becomes destructive itself.
Word Count: 1984