The Albatross


The Albatross Essay, Research Paper

Essay on The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner

The Albatross

To hang an albatross around one s neck is to symbolize shame, but from what is

this symbol derived? Is it because an albatross is so heavy that when hung around the neck

it causes one to hang their head, as to implement shame? Or could it be that it was a figure

of speech given to one that carried a guilt that was as large and weighted as an albatross is

big and heavy, and therefore carried that shame for all to see as an albatross around the

neck? But why an albatross, which was considered to be a sign of good luck? In Samuel

Taylor Coleridge s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner all questions are answered as to

how and why an albatross hung around the neck is considered to be shameful and almost a


In the beginning of Coleridge s poem, the albatross was a sign of good luck to the

men on board a lost ship. At length did cross an Albatross… As if it had been a Christian

soul (lines 63-65). The crew, who s ship had been driven off course by a terrible storm,

had seen this bird as an angel of God, for they knew that where there were birds, there

was land. They greeted the bird with joy, happiness, and renewed hope that they would

somehow find their way home again. They followed the omen which led them out of the

ice and fog. The albatross had saved the crew, both physically and emotionally by

increasing the ship s morale as they …hailed it in God s name (line 66).

Unfortunately, the crews excitement and joy came to an abrupt end as the bird was

plucked from the sky. With my crossbow, I [the Mariner] shot the Albatross (lines

81-82) and for apparently no reason other than he never really had appreciation for nature

or its creatures. The entire crew was shocked and devastated, but they soon got over it

quickly, as something supernatural began to change the atmosphere and their attention

was detered away from the Mariner s actions. The fair breeze blew, the white foam

flew, (line 103) and the ship had begun to move due to the mysterious wind. The ship

traveled all the way to the equator when Down dropped the breeze, the sails dropped

down (line 107), the ship had suddenly stopped. There the crew was left to starve under

the hot sun in the idle ship.

To add to the supernatural punishment, the crew members blame it on the Mariner,

and sentence him to another punishment. He was forced to wear the large albatross

around his neck as sort of a public humility (such as the punishment of wearing the letter

A on Hester Pryne s dress in the novel The Scarlet Letter ) which would hurt him

mentally, but also the physical discomfort of having to lug around such a large bird. It was

a badge of shame. Eventually, one by one, the crew members all died, except for the

Mariner, who was left alone at sea.

The Mariner was left to live life-in-death, but one day he saw water snakes. And in

those water snakes her saw something he had never seen before- beauty. He was finally

able to see that nature can be beautiful and he blessed the water snakes with all of his

heart, and thus, the spell had broken. The ship was sent back to land and the Albatross fell

from the man s neck, and he thus was compelled to tell his story to all who he knew

needed to hear it, so that they may be able to see the beauty that God had blessed the earth

with and so that they may have love and respect toward nature.

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