Essay on Rime of the Ancient Mariner Interpreted Through the Techniques of Foster

Submitted By llust
Words: 1546
Pages: 7

Thomas Foster states, “We have to bring our imaginations to bear on a story if we are to see all it's possibilities; otherwise it's just about somebody who did something. Whatever we take away from stories in the way of significance, symbolism, theme, meaning, pretty much anything, we discover because our imagination engages with that of the author” (67). In literature, it is not often easy to analyze and interpret the idea an author is trying to convey. However, it is entirely possible for readers to unravel and explore the author’s exact point with guidance and instruction. In the work, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, author Thomas Foster provides this guidance, allowing each reader to examine literature at an enriching level using helpful tools and techniques. Although Samuel Coleridge’s poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, is one of the most significant works in English literature, it also happens to be one of the most confusing. However, Foster allows the reader to extrapolate the true meaning of this epic poem. Through Foster’s strategies of interpreting weather, geography, and also Christ-like figures, the ability to analyze Coleridge’s complex poem is made easier.
In Rime of the Ancient Mariner, weather plays an integral role, advancing the plot while also providing an atmospheric element. The sailors encounter nearly every type of weather in the story – rain, fog, ice, snow, and even a drought. However, it is important to note that weather is highly symbolic and not always what it seems. Foster remarks, “You may say that every story needs a setting and that weather is part of the setting. That is true, by the way, but it isn’t the whole deal. There’s much more to it…Weather is never just weather. It’s never just rain. And that goes for snow, sun, warmth, cold…” (44). Using weather as a symbol is a very popular literary technique employed by many authors. Each type of weather represents something completely emblematic, thus allowing the author to convey a point without having to explicit state it. In the poem, the sailors are faced with a dramatic, unexpected weather change, “And now there came both mist and snow, / And it grew wondrous cold: / And ice, mast-high, came floating by, / As green as emerald… / And through the drifts the snowy cliffs / Did send a dismal sheen: / Nor shapes of men not breasts we ken - / The ice was all between. / The ice was here, the ice was there, / The ice was all around…” (Part I, 11). It is easy to recognize that this icy weather is not ideal for sailing, and represents an upcoming struggle that the sailors will have to face. Foster states that snow is “severe, inhospitable, and suffocating” (46), which can only mean that the sailors will have difficulty navigating this icy region. In addition to ice and snow, rain is also very symbolic in literature. It can represent a multitude of different things, but one of the most powerful symbols of rain is cleansing. Foster explains, “If you want a character to be cleansed, symbolically, let him walk through the rain to get somewhere. He can be quite transformed when he gets there…He can be less angry, less confused, more repentant…The stain that was upon him – figuratively – can be removed” (45). In the Mariner’s case, it begins to rain after a period of drought when he is able to realize that all living creatures deserve love and affection, and the albatross falls from his neck. The rain cleanses him and absolves him of his sins, “And when I awoke, it rain’d, / My lips were wet, my throat was cold, / My garments all were dank; / Sure I had drunken in my dreams, / And still my body drank. / I moved, and could not feel my limbs: / I was so light – almost / I though that I had died in sleep, / And was a blessed ghost” (Part V, 4). The rain cleanses the Mariner of his sin of killing the albatross, and he feels light without this heavy burden weighing him down. The mark that was upon him is now removed, and he can move forward as a…