Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge may seem like two very different stories, but their characters have more in common than one might think. For instance, Victor Frankenstein and the Ancient Mariner are very similar. Both men are seeking to be remembered for something and their task turns sour.
Both Victor Frankenstein and the Ancient Mariner make decisions that will change their lives forever. For worse, that is. Victor Frankenstein decides to create his monster and is frightened by his own creation. Once his monster realizes that he is not wanted, he escapes Victor’s room and ventures into the real world. A little later on, William, Victor’s brother, is murdered while he is outside playing. Victor is certain that his monster has killed the little boy. Victor resents his creation and says “Nothing in human shape could have destroyed that fair child. He was the murderer! I could not doubt it” (68-69). This is very similar to whenever the Ancient Mariner kills the Albatross. The Albatross is seen as a good omen and is respected by all men on the ship. Well, except for the Ancient Mariner. Once the bird is dead, the Mariner’s shipmates attack and ridicule him for committing such a heinous act. The Mariner realizes what he has done and says “And I had done a hellish thing, / And it would work ‘em woe: / For all averred, I had killed the bird / That made the breeze to blow” (90-95). Both men have regretted their actions after seeing the dire consequences.
When it comes to dealing with their actions, both Victor Frankenstein and the Ancient Mariner must carry the guilt on their shoulders for the rest of their lives. After Victor resents his monster for the death of William, he feels an extraordinary amount of sorrow and pain. He says “No one can conceive the anguish I suffered during the remainder of the night, which I spent, cold and wet, in the open air. But I did not feel the inconvenience of the weather; my imagination was busy in scenes of evil and despair” (69). At this point in time, Victor cannot live a normal life ever again. He must always fear that his monster will strike again and murder another in cold blood. For the Ancient Mariner, the guilt is all the same. After he kills the Albatross, the ship begins to experience the conditions of horrible weather and the sea casts out its monsters to wreak havoc. The Mariner’s shipmates want him to remember his guilt, so they force him to wear the dead bird around his neck as they continue their voyage. The Mariner says “Ah! well-a-day what evil looks / Had I from old and young! / Instead of the cross, the Albatross / About my neck was hung” (139-142). These results would haunt them for the remainder of their days.
Lastly, both men are forced to tell their tales until they die. The story of Victor Frankenstein would not be known if it wasn’t being recorded by Captain Walton, who is the captain of the ship that Victor is brought onto. Walton recounts his visitor, Victor, saying “when I reflect that you are pursuing the same course, exposing yourself to the same dangers which have rendered me what I am, I imagine that you may deduce an apt moral from my tale; one that may direct you if you succeed in your undertaking, and console you in your case of failure” (25). Victor is willing to tell Walton his story, but he wishes that it will teach him a lesson. He does not want Walton to follow in his footsteps and make the same decisions that he did. Similarly, the Ancient Mariner must tell all who he encounters about his “ghastly tale” (584). He says “I pass, like night, from land to land; / I have strange power of speech; / That moment that his face I see, / I know the man that must hear me: / To him my tale I teach” (586-590). Since he is the only survivor from the voyage, it is his duty to inform others about his story and to keep them from making the same mistakes. Without a doubt, these stories took a toll on both Victor and the Ancient Mariner.
In conclusion, Victor Frankenstein and the Ancient Mariner may be two different men, but they are one and the same. They both made decisions that affected them for the rest of their lives, they had to carry the weight on their shoulders, and they were forced to tell other people their stories. The connections between these two stories is extremely evident and provides an insight into how decisions shape the lives of everyone.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The Norton Anthology of British Literature: The Romantic Period. 10th ed. Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor. W. W. Norton, 2017. pp. 448-64.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Introduction and Notes by Karen Karbiener. Barnes and Noble, 2003.
To the left, my copy of The Norton Anthology of British Literature: The Romantic Period and my copy of Frankenstein are pictured.