Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” tells the story of an ancient mariner who kills an albatross and brings upon himself and his ship’s crew a curse. The ancient mariner travels the world, unburdening his soul, telling his story to whomever needs to hear it. Shelley alludes to the poem several times. Robert Walton in Frankenstein is similar to the Wedding Guest from “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” with Victor Frankenstein playing the role of the mariner. As the mariner feels compelled to share his story to one who needs to hear it, so does Victor. The explicit theme in “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” that love conquers all, is a clue as to how the tragedy that occurs in Frankenstein’s life could have been avoided.
Mary Shelley, just as Samuel Coleridge, create very similar settings. Both pieces of literature are characteristic of the Romantic period and describe vividly nature and the outdoors. Frankenstein and the mariner play very similar roles, as well as the albatross and the creature. The fate of the crew members in Thje Rime of The Ancient Mariner was in the hands of the albatross. This bird decided which crew members were to live and which ones were subject to death. Ironically, the entire crew in the poem were killed and the only man who survived was the mariner. “I am going to unexplored regions, to “the land of mist and snow;” but i shall kill no albatross, therefore do not be alarmed for my safety, or if i should come back to you as worn and woeful as the “Ancient Mariner?” (pg 16-17 Letter II). Here Walton is making a blatant reference to “The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.” He is referring to the part of the story in which the Mariner shoots down the Albatross, which causes his downfall and that of his crew. This correlates to Frankenstein in a sense that the creature had the ultimate control over the human population. It was in his power to kill whomever he chooses to. Just like the mariner was given a second chance to redeem himself and rid his sins for killing the albatross, Frankenstein was given another chance to give the creature what he ultimately wanted- another one of his kind. Right after Victor ran away in terror after he saw his creation for the first time, he wanders the streets alone with his conscience.
“Like one who, on a lonely road, Doth walk in fear and dread, And, having once turned round, walks on, And turns no more his head; Because he knows a
frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread”(Shelley, 53). At this point “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is referenced because similarly, in this work the person wanders the streets with a demon or fiend following him. In a romantic sense, the mariner and Victor both want knowledge. They both are trying to get their thoughts straight across. However, unlike the mariner, Victor’s new knowledge brings a curse along with it. Victor’s life is similar to “Nightmare-Life-In-Death” because he really has no one he loves left. On top of that, he is the reason for the deaths of all his loved ones. Frankenstein wants to die at this point, but he wants to finish what he started. Additionally, they are both living with the knowledge no one else possesses and the hatred towards their respective creatures. Frankenstein is constantly battling the creature and torturing himself throughout the novel.
“All men hate the wretched; how, then, must i be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator detest and spurn me…” (Shelley 88). In this quote Shelley is making a statement on the inherent beauty of all living things. She believes that all living creatures have a certain beauty, not matter what. Similarly, Coleridge made this statement by using the albatross. The Mariner’s punishment for shooting down the albatross was living Life-in-Death. In the above quote, the creature speaks of how humans hate the wretched, simply because they are wretched. Men look at the creature and automatically think he is the lowest life-form. Even his creator looks at him and cannot stand the sight of him.
“Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink. The very deep did rot: O Christ! That ever this should be! Yes, slimy things did crawl with legs Upon the slimy sea” (Coleridge pt. II, st. 9). This quote shows The Mariner’s outlook on nature in the beginning of the poem. The Mariner refers to the creatures of the sea as “slimy things,” which obviously has a negative connotation. However, once Coleridge teaches his character the lesson of the inherent beauty in nature, the Mariner learns that all creatures are beautiful. In Shelley’s piece, which also has this theme, it seems that Frankenstein really never learns this lesson, while the creature does seem to grasp this concept.
“I beheld those I loved spend vain sorrow upon the graves of William and Justine, the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts” (Shelley 79). This quote shows Shelley’s theme of how devastating the consequences can be for one single unthinking act. Obviously, Victor’s single unthinking act was his creation of the creature. When he made this creature, there is no way that he thought he would kill two of his closest loved ones, and later kill more. However, it happened and Shelley is showing us how devastating the effects can be. Similarly, in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Mariner also suffers for a single, unthinking act. His act was the killing of the albatross. He paid for it in more than one way. First, he was sent to a Life-in-Death, then after he repented, his ship sunk with his crew. To top it off, he was forced to wander the earth, telling his story in order to teach people about the beauty of creatures, for the rest of his life.
Frankenstein includes a number of the themes that are encompassed in the Rime. Both contain the theme of the act of storytelling because although the reader hardly notices, both works are written in such a way that the story is told by one character to another, with periodic interruptions to remind the reader of this fact; the mariner is telling his story to the Wedding Guest and Victor is telling his story to Walton. Frankenstein also contains the theme of the natural world, where both the creature and Victor spend much of their time in nature, the creature having to learn how to survive and Victor simply taking pleasure in its beauty.