What do you think to be the significance of the Albatross in "The Ancient Mariner"?

Essay by hanyserryHigh School, 12th gradeA+, December 2005

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The significance of the Albatross in "The Ancient Mariner" has been left open to examination by the reader. The symbolism of the Albatross in Coleridge's poem is rather debatable. By looking at different interpretations, I will investigate whether Coleridge's Albatross is significant or not.

The ancient mariner represents Coleridge himself and the albatross represents the fight with himself to overcome his personal guilt. The mariner's sufferings are an expression of Coleridge's strong addiction with opium, and the moral collapse that followed. In the poem this is illustrated by the momentary passive action of the mariner, which lead to a life of misery, ridden in guilt, seeking for redemption. It is when the mariner learns how to honour the slimy creatures, the albatross slips off him and falls amidst these creatures from the sea.

"And from my neck so free

The Albatross fell off, and sank

Like lead into the sea"

The albatross represents one end of nature's spectrum and the slimy creatures represent the other end of its spectrum.

And it is not until the mariner is able to value the lowest form of creation, that he is able to restore his connection to nature and once again place himself in relation to the world outside his own.

Since the albatross falls from the mariners neck, we expect his sins to have been absolves. But the ancient mariners experience does not end there. Further expiation is necessary. If the first aspect to be expiated is the mariner's crime against nature, against innocence (killing of the albatross), perhaps the second aspect is his sin against humanity, his implication of the other mariners in his guilt. Firstly, guilt by association, for they were present at the scene of crime and also suffer its consequence and the second being guilt by influence.