The Mariner As A Muse (For Fre Essay, Research Paper
THE MARINER AS A MUSE (FOR FREUD)
Through this complex poem it is no easy task to contrive one concise explanation that will sum up the poem. The Rhyme Of the Ancient Mariner has strong undertones of God the creator, the animals in his kingdom, and the basic emotional circumstances that make up human existence. While these are broad topics, they can be broken down into cause and effect situations using some of Freud’s methodology in Ego Psychology. Freud explained the way the human mind uses defense mechanisms, and there are some examples of these mechanisms in “The Rhyme Of the Ancient Mariner.” Freud’s ideas on displacement, rationalization, and projection can be used to understand some of the actions seen in the poem.
The poem starts out in the present day when the Mariner, uninvited, attends a wedding reception where he takes aside one of the guests and begins to spin his tale of a see adventure which appears to be part fact, hallucination, and religion. The mariner and his fellow seamen are stranded in the middle of the ocean with no wind. There boat has not moved in weeks, the ocean is calm and they are at natures (Gods) mercy. When suddenly out of the blue comes a glorious albatross. In an almost magical way the sails flood with wind and the sea changes from a calm portrait of water into a lively swell of waves and white caps. Almost all the crew begins to rejoice in the albatross and the whether which they believe it brought. Only the Ancient Mariner is anything but happy over the bird’s presence and he shoots the bird with a harpoon, killing it. The reason the Mariner killed the bird is not emphasized but a mask of a reason is that he thought the bird was responsible for the bad whether. The other sailors turn on the Mariner blaming him for the return of the bad whether by shooting the albatross. They hang the carcass of the Albatross around his neck as a reminder of his crime and are plagued with another calm of the whether. As time goes on most of the crew on the ship die and the mariner begins to hallucinate due to his dehydration and his miserable state. Soon the Mariner is the only one left on the ship and he begins to fear that all hope is lost. As the Mariner begins to contemplate his situation he turns to God and blesses all the creatures in the world including his dead comrades, the ugly hallucinations he has, and the albatross. After he makes his peace with God the albatross falls from his neck, the skeletons of his crewmembers return to life, and the wind pushes his sails homeward.
There is a heavy presence of the supernatural in this story but after analyzing the psyche of the Ancient Mariner and the crew, we can see hidden motivations behind the actions. Freud’s theory of displacement can be used to explain the actions of the crew and their treatment of the Mariner. Displacement is a tool that lets people redirect their anger when the cause of their anger cannot be directly accessed. If a person has a conflict inside them where they are unable to reach a resolution because the resolution is unobtainable, they need to find an outlet. If they let the problem continue to build inside they will not be able to find an outlet and never have a release. By taking that aggression and placing it on another outlet they can resolve their aggression without ever truly dealing with the problem. (Freud and beyond 9)
The method the crewmen use to punish the Mariner is really an indirect way of dealing with the whether. They have no control over the course of the whether and cannot seek vengeance on it for letting their ship lay motionless. When the Albatross comes and the whether begins to turn they immediately associated the turning of the whether with the albatross. As rational people we know that the presence of a bird cannot be accountable for the direction of the winds. But these men are desperate and need some kind of reasoning for their bad fortune. After the Mariner kills the albatross and the whether turns as well, they have lost their method for explaining their position, and since they no longer have the favorable whether they need something to punish. They cannot punish God, nature, or the dead albatross, but the Mariner is an obtainable outlet.
When the Mariner has the urge to shoot the bird he needs a reason to back it up. He cannot do it on a whim so he rationalizes a reason for killing the bird. Rationalization is used to back up the actions that cause anxiety. For instance if a man is beating his son for no apparent reason he is going to feel guilty for his actions. In order to feel better about himself he must formulate a reason to back up his actions. The man then will convince himself that it is for the boys own good, and then he can feel better about his inappropriate actions. (Freud and beyond 37)
The Mariner uses rationalization to justify the murder of the bird just like the father uses it to rationalize the beating of his son. The Mariner convinces himself that the bird is the one bringing the bad weather and in order to stop the continuance of the bad weather he must kill the bird. He really has no reason to inflict harm on the bird, which is his impulse. This was his only way to justify his actions. “Then all averred, I had killed the bird that brought the fog and mist. Twas right, said they, such birds to slay, that bring the fog and mist.”(Coleridge 425)
The reasoning behind the Ancient Mariners actions are often difficult to distinguish. The real reason why he killed the bird is not clearly visible, along with the reason he picked the man at the wedding reception to hear his story. At first glance it seems that the man was chosen at random just so the Mariner could tell his interesting story, but this is not completely true.
The Mariner is carrying quite the burden on his shoulders and he needs someway of lightening his load. Here he uses another of Freud’s defense mechanisms, projection, to deal with his situation. Freud described projection as forbidden urges that break through consciousness and are attributed to others. For instance a woman that has guilty, adulterous feelings will project those feelings onto her husband so she does not have to face those feelings. The feelings are then distanced from her by putting them on her husband. (Freud and beyond 27)
The Mariner does something similar by telling his story to the man at the wedding. The Mariner is feeling guilty because he killed the albatross, which was a sin against God. God wants us to respect all of his creatures and by killing the bird he has disrespected God and needs to get those feelings out in order to feel better. By telling the wedding guest to respect all of Gods creatures he is making the wedding guest feel guilty for things he is not responsible for. The Mariner has projected the blame onto the wedding guest and distanced himself from the guilt.
As we see the Mariner go through his situations it is easy to gloss over them and not immediately relate them to Freud’s view on ego psychology. After breaking down each conflict the reasons for his actions become easier to understand. The Mariner’s motives seemed to have neither rhyme nor reason until they were carefully analyzed using Freud’s methods. It appeared as if the Mariners actions had as much reason behind them as the whether in the poem.