Symbolism And Themes Of Christianity In The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, Beowulf, And Frankenstein
Throughout centuries, Christian elements have been purposely hidden in various works of literature. The epic poem “Beowulf,” is a famous tale that displays a brave man named Beowulf, who fights evil monsters in order to save others. Beowulf is a confident man who is highly esteemed by many because of his arduous tasks and victories. Another story that exhibits the themes of Christianity is “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” This is a poem, written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, that centers around a sea mariner who obsessed with his voyage. He has many sailors accompanying him and experiences many trials. He feels compelled to tell the story of his journey to almost everyone he meets, regardless of their present situation. The last work of literature that contains Christian themes and symbolism the renowned book “Frankenstein.” This is a story about a very intelligent man, Victor Frankenstein, who creates literal life in the form of a monster. The story continues with the resulting consequences of the man’s actions. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “Beowulf,” and “Frankenstein” all display many examples of Christian themes and symbolism.
The story of Adam and Eve displays significant similarities to parts of the story in ̈The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. ̈The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” displays numerous examples of symbolism that mirror specific biblical stories and characters. In this story, a bird, specifically known as an albatross, can be compared to the fall of man in the Bible. When God created the world, He created man and woman. Adam and Eve were the first people to ever exist on this Earth. They lived in the Garden of Eden and were told they could eat anything they would like from the garden, except from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Later, Eve was tempted by the devil Satan, in the form of a snake. This results in Eve eating the forbidden fruit from the tree she was very specifically not allowed to eat from. Adam then also eats the forbidden fruit and thus began the fall of man. This was the first time man was disobedient to God and sin came into the world. Adam and Eve are ultimately punished for their disobedient actions as God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life” (Gen. 3.17). This story in the Bible parallels to the killing of the albatross bird in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” In “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” the mariner and the many sailors encounter an albatross. They believe it to be a sign of good luck because the weather clears while it is present. Although, the mariner decides to shoot and kill the bird with his crossbow. This breaks the harmony with nature and brings forth punishment to the mariner and the sailors. This is a sin he has to live with for a long time because he hesitates to ask for forgiveness. The mariner does not realize the consequences of killing one of God’s creatures. The mariner also does not truly recognize that all of God’s creatures are truly special and loved. They mariner regrets killing the bird by stating, “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” (Coleridge). This implies that the bird did indeed help the ship and improve the weather conditions. These two stories directly relate because they both contain a sin committed that starts a downfall and contain inflicting results. They both stir disruption with the natural world and God. Eve eating the forbidden fruit mirrors the mariner killing the innocent albatross for many reasons. In both stories, there are consequences to the sinful actions. Once Adam and Eve betrayed God, they went from everything in their lives from being “good” to bringing in sickness, pain, sadness, lying, cheating, depression, hatred, stealing and all of the evil into the world. Similarly, the misfortune of the sea returns and the mariner is mentally and physically punished. Thirst, hunger, and death is brought upon the ship because the mariner’s sinful actions. Every sailor and man that accompanied the ship, suffered as a result of the dead albatross, “There passed a weary time. Each throat was parched, and glazed each eye” (Coleridge). The story of Adam and Eve and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” explicitly reflect each other.
The story of Lazarus, in the christian Bible, can be closely compared the the sailor’s deaths in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The gospel of John elaborates on the astounding life of Lazarus of Bethany. Lazarus is a significant biblical figure that fell exceedingly ill. His two sisters, Mary and Martha, urged Jesus to come heal their brother, because Jesus had given sight to the blind and even healed some with life-threatening diseases, but Jesus refused to come see Lazarus. Mary and Martha spoke to Jesus saying, “Lord, the one You love is sick. When Jesus heard this, He said,“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11.4) This calmed the sisters but Lazarus could not fight his sickness any longer and eventually died. He was dead and buried for four until something unbelievable occurred. This is when Jesus reassured the grieving sisters and stated, “Your brother will rise again” (John 11.23). Jesus performs another miracle and Lazarus who was once dead, came back from the dead to life. The story of Jesus and Lazarus can be examined and compared to the sailor’s circumstance. Similarly, the mariner’s sailors become increasing ill as a result of dehydration. Although, while sailing along their journey they pass the Life in Death ship. This is a ghost that ultimately takes the lives of all of the sailors. Every sailor that was once alive on the ship meets their death. The mariner, very upset by the circumstances, exclaims, “The many men, so beautiful! / And they all dead did lie: / And a thousand thousand slimy things / Lived on; and so did I. Four times fifty living men, (And I heard nor sigh nor groan) With heavy thump, a lifeless lump, They dropped down one by one. The souls did from their bodies fly,— They fled to bliss or woe” (CITE). Later on, the sailors essentially come back to life; the mariner proclaims, “The cold sweat melted from their limbs, Nor rot nor reek did they: The look with which they looked on me Had never passed away” (CITE). Although they were not technically raised from the dead, as Lazarus was, the angels filled their souls and took over their bodies. The death and resurrection of Lazarus and the many mariners’s sailors both mirror each other. They died and came back to life for some purpose.
Characters in the epic poem ̈Beowulf ̈ can be closely compared to certain biblical figures. Throughout the story, the main character, Beowulf, can be seen as a Christ-like figure. Although Beowulf is extremely eager for earthly fame, he is a very loyal and brave warrior. He relentlessly risks his life, by fighting Grendel the evil monster, for the sake of the towns people. Many compare this to when Jesus Christ sacrifices himself on the cross to save others from their sins. Also, the feasts and celebrations dedicated to Beowulf’s bravery reflect the Last Supper in the Bible. The Last Supper was the last meal Jesus ate with his apostles, before the crucifixion. Before Beowulf fights Grendel’s mother, who was seeking vengeance for her son, he was presented a fine meal with wine. Before Beowulf went off into battle he recognized the severity of the situation and that he may not return. He made a toast, acknowledging God and the fact that he might be embarking on his last battle by stating, “The old lord gazed sadly at the gold. ‘To the everlasting Lord of All, to the King of Glory, I give thanks that I behold this treasure here in front of me, that I have been allowed to leave my people so well endowed on the day I die’ (CITE). Beowulf’s last battle was with an extremely strong and powerful dragon. At his old age, he knew that this could be his last battle, but he took the risk anyway. This was a selfless act that displayed heroism and leadership. In the same way Jesus Christ died so that others could not perish but have eternal life. Both Jesus Christ and Beowulf served as a human sacrifice for the sake of others.
Another character in the famous tale “Beowulf” is symbolic of a person in the Bible. In the Old Testament of the Bible, Adam and Eve have two sons named Cain and Abel. Both of the sons were required to make sacrifices to God. God favored Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s sacrifice. Abel decided to give the Lord the fattest of his sheep, since he was a shepherd, in contrast to Cain’s. Cain was not as giving in comparison to his brother, sacrificing just a small portion of his crops from one day. This angered Cain deeply ultimately causing him to seek revenge. Cain then kills his brother out of jealousy and his personal evil desires. Similary, in the story Beowulf, there is an evil monster that seeks to destroy and murder innocent people and the town. This monster’s name is Grendel, and he is eventually defeated by the epic hero Beowulf after a brutal fight. It is believed that Grendel, as well as his mother, is a descendant of Cain.
Grendel was the name of this grim demon
haunting the marches, marauding round the heath
and the desolate fens; he had dwelt for a time
in misery among the banished monsters,
Cain’s clan, whom the creator had outlawed
and condemned as outcasts. For the killing of Abel
the Eternal Lord had exacted a price:
Cain got no good from committing that murder
because the Almighty made him anathema
and out of the curse of his exile there sprang
ogres and elves and evil phantoms
and the giants too who strove with God
time and again until He gave them their reward. (102-114)
Also, after Cain killed Abel he viciously drank some of his brother’s blood. Grendel was also known to do this to some of his victims. They are also both outcasts and lived far from God. Cain was cursed by God and being the descendant of him strains Grendel’s view and perception of the Heavenly Father. They were both set apart from humanity and all things pure because of their barbaric murders and evil mindsets. Grendel symbolizes Cain’s inhumane character and actions.
In the renowned novel Frankenstein, Christian motifs and themes are present throughout.
In conclusion, Christian elements, themes, and symbolism are evident throughout the profound stories of “Beowulf” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Literature often hides strong underlying messages in simple stories. By meticulously analyzing texts, literary elements may be revealed in certain works of literature. Both “Beowulf” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” portray many examples of characters and plot scenes that mirror biblical figures, stories, and paraboles.
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