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Contrasts In Rime Of The Ancient Mariner

Essay, Research Paper

In the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, Coleridge uses many contrasts. Some of the

contrasts are very blatant, while other are more subtle. Some of these contrasts include

the sun and the moon. Another contrast Coleridge introduces in this poem is the contrast

of love verses hate. Also included in this poem is the contrast that particularly struck me

is the contrast between white and color. These contrasts, in a sense, all enrich the poem

and make all these points the author is attempting to express stand out.

The contrast between the Sun and Moon is rather strong in this particular poem.

While the Sun represents intense heat and misfortune, the Moon represents mild cool

weather and a watchful, safe guide/eye. When the Sun is out, the Ancient Mariner seems

to be dying of heat. He is in this horrible, hot situation. On the other hand, when the

moon is out, the moon seems to be watching over the Ancient Mariner. The poem states:

“The moving Moon went up the sky,

And no where did abide:

Softly she was going up,

And a star or two beside.”

Love and hate is also a strong contrast in the poem. When the Ancient Mariner

first looks down on the sea he sees these sea creatures which he describes distastefully.

He describes them as slimy and rotten. There is a major shift in attitude, though, when

the Ancient Mariner says “O happy living things! no tongue

Their beauty might declare:

A spring of love gushed from my heart,

And I blessed them unaware”

At first, the Ancient Mariner seems to despise these sea creatures, then he loves them .

Although it is a rather abrupt change, it seems to be for the better. ( After he expresses

his love for the creatures, the albatross falls off his neck and he is once again able to


Yet another contrast found in the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is the contrast

between white/lack of color and color. In the beginning of the poem, when the Ancient

Mariner and his crew reach the South Pole, the setting is pure white. There is no other

color described. It is a sort of frightening, blank, empty setting.

“And through the drifts the snowy clifts

Did send a dismal sheen:

Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken

The ice was all between.”

Later on in the poem, this is not so. Life-in-Death is described as “Her lips were red,

her looks were free,

Her locks were yellow as gold

Her skin was white as leprosy”. This use of color is not found in the earlier parts of the

poem. Another place where the use of color is particularly notable is then the water is

described as “a still and awful red”. This use of color is a shock after the use of all water

in the prior parts of the poem.

In this poem, Coleridge made use of many contrasts to perhaps to perhaps

highlight some ideas/points that created vivid contrasts. The contrasts between the sun

and moon, love and hate, as well as the contrast between white and color. The moon is

seen as a watchful eye, while the sun is seen as “bad”. We see the Ancient Mariner hate

things one moment and then love them the next moment. In addition, we see the author

describe a setting of pure white–and then right after of vibrant color. With this use of

contrasts, these topics were highlighted in my mind.