Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Transformation of the Natural into the Supernatural

I decided to look specifically at the end of the poem, after the Albatross is killed, because the supernatural aspects of the poem appear at this moment. It seems to me that the marinere attributes his guilt and fickleness of the weather to the natural, which are thus given agency and become supernatural. After he kills the albatross, the ship becomes stranded at sea and the crew is deprived of water, food, and shade. Logically, these harsh conditions lead to the death of the crew members and the hallucinations of the marinere (imagine a mirage in the desert - your desire for water causes it to appear etc.). Instead of coming to this conclusion, the marinere turns to the supernatural, the appearance of wind and current is caused by a spirit, which I think could be the devil. (He is 9 fathoms deep = the 9 levels of hell, and "the land of mist and snow" may refer to the cold/icy levels of hell while the fire imagery of the ocean hearkens to the fire and brimstone of the deepest levels.) Regardless of the nature of the spirit, the natural explanation is that the weather fluxuates. The description of the sea can also be explained by the bio-luminescence of algae; there are several other examples but I think y'all get the point. The marinere externalizes his guilt for the failure of the voyage and natural demise of his crew by attributing it to the supernatural. This is supported by his references to religion, which evokes a moral questioning of his actions. He is driven crazy, and, psychologically, the natural becomes supernatural.

1 comment:

  1. I really like the idea that "the natural became supernatural." In this interpretation, I think that our conversation about supernatural vs irrational is further confused by the psychological disposition of the narrator. Coleridge's poem does not necessarily indicate the insanity of the marinere, but as you point out, his physiological conditions would certainly inspire a sense of mental instability. In all of Gothic lit, there seems to be a tension between the reality of the narrator and the bizarre inspirations of the poet. It is difficult to know what we should understand to be real.