The Wedding Guest in The Rime of The Ancient Mariner

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      The Wedding-Guest's Part in the Story. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner begins abruptly when The Ancient Mariner stops one of the three wedding guests and begins to tell his story. The Wedding-Guest at first is reluctant to hear the story as he is in a hurry to go and attend the wedding. He even recoils in horror from the ghastly Ancient Mariner. But The Ancient Mariner holds him by his arresting glittering eye. The helpless Wedding-Guest collapses on a stone nearby and listens to story like a three-year child. On occasions he protests but cannot move away. In the end, he becomes so dazed with what he has heard that he does not have the heart or the mind to attend the wedding. He is a 'sadder and a wiser man'. He is sadder for the realisation of the human predicament which The Ancient Mariner has so vividly impressed upon him through his story. He is wiser for the profound moral truth that he has learned, namely the love of all things great or small.

      Is the Wedding-Guest Important? The Wedding-Guest's, part as sketched above is only one of passive listening. On the surface, it looks as though his part are not at all important if only for the reason that the Wedding-Guest is not part of The Ancient Mariner's woeful tale. It is but natural to say, as some people have said, that the Wedding-Guest serves no useful purpose in the story but on the contrary, impedes the even progress of the Mariner's entrancing narrative. This view is superficial, and thoroughly mistaken. The Wedding-Guest has a place and purpose in the story which nobody else could fulfill.

      Structurally Important. Structurally, the Wedding-Guest helps to bring out clearly and emphatically the spiritual crisis experienced by the Mariner after he kills the Albatross. He interrupts at important stages of the Mariner's story and draws the reader's attention to significant emotional states. The loud exclamation of the Wedding-Guest draws the much-evaded confession from the Mariner that he has shot the Albatross. Towards the end of part III, the Wedding Guest suspects the Mariner to be a ghost and then in part V, he expresses his fear. Both time the Mariner clarifies the situation for the Wedding-Guest as well as the reader. Thus he marks the stage of development in the story.

      A Ballad Characteristic. In popular ballads, it is usual that the story is addressed to some particular individual. It is through this device that the ballad writers make their poems or narratives dramatic and conversational. If the dramatic element is lacking, the story will be dull for rack of surprise and suspense.

      The Ancient Mariner Must Have a Listener. The Ancient Mariner suffers fits of agony occasionally and is compelled by a mysterious inner necessity to find a willing listener whom he can discern at once by the power he has now acquired after his long suffering and penance. This time he has found a listener in one of the three wedding guests.

      Vividness of Feeling and Emotion. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a story told not by the poet but by the Mariner himself. While telling the story, the Mariner lives through the past experience and visibly registers all the shades of feeling associated with those experiences and emotions. A description of those feelings and emotions will be bare, bald and unimpressive. Their vividness and dramatic effectiveness will be lost in the description. But the Wedding-Guest's interruptions bring before our mind the appearance and expression of The Ancient Mariner in all their vividness and clarity.

God save thee ancient Mariner,
From the fiends that plague thee thus;
Why looks't thou so?

      These lines, are spoken by the Wedding-Guest convey the suffering of the Mariner more effectively than a description can ever do.

      Link Between Two Worlds. The Ancient Mariner has two distinct worlds. One of them is the world of imagination which is the story of the Mariner and his strange experiences. The other world is the world of reality, of which the Wedding-Guest and the church are a part. The Wedding-Guest is the link between the two worlds and consequently is able to live and experience both the worlds.

      Target of the Mariner's Moral. It is the Wedding-Guest alone who can give occasion to The Ancient Mariner to deliver the moral of his story with telling effect. The Wedding-Guest has protested many times to the Mariner that he wants to attend the wedding. The Mariner has observed the guest's impatience. But in the Mariner's views, it is better to walk to the church and pray in goodly company than to attend the marriage "east. It is spiritual joy that matters and not petty merriment.

      Contrast Between two Types of Experience. Finally, in the poem as a whole, a deliberate contrast is certainly presented between the background of the wedding on the one hand and the Mariner's tale on the other. The interruptions of the Wedding-Guest are meant to point out this contrast. The effect of We Interruptions of the Wedding-Guest is to show how these two kinds of reality are always co-existent: the total effect of the poem is to show them interpenetrating.

      Conclusion. It is clear from the above discussion that the introduction of the Wedding-Guest has a great significance. The Wedding-Guest is neither unimportant nor redundant. The contrast between the spiritual world of the Mariner with its rich moral values with the world of actuality with its mistaken values cannot be effective and perfect without the Wedding-Guest figuring as a link between the two worlds. The Wedding-Guest's suspension of disbelief and the trust with which he accepts the tale assists to create suspension of disbelief in the reader.

University Questions

Discuss the significance of the part played by the Wedding Guest in the dramatic frame-work of The Ancient Mariner.
Wliy Coleridge introduced the Wedding-Guest in The Rime of The Ancient Mariner?
Why did The Ancient Mariner pick on a Wedding-Guest to tell his story?

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