What is the meaning of the ancient mariner, the ship, and the albatross?
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The Ancient Mariner is on a journey of self-discovery as he realizes how he must properly interact with Nature and appreciate the beauty of the natural world. The albatross, when hung around his neck, indicates the weight of his sin in killing the albatross, one of nature's most important creatures. If the Mariner is on a journey of self-discovery, then the ship is that which carries him. Ultimately, he loses that ship as he does not bring it back to the home port.
An allegory is a type of literary genre in which things are represented by other things. For example, the Mariner is on a journey of self-discovery which he must live and relive as he meets people who need the lesson he learns. The lesson is learned after he kills the albatross; it is hung around his neck to show what he does not know about nature (while Coleridge is not as much into nature as Wordsworth - he, however, uses nature to show the superstitious, supernatural parts of his writing). Until he blesses the water snakes, he cannot get rid of the burden the killing of the albatross has created. And until that happens, he cannot continue his journey. His ship is, of course, what carries him onto his final goal, his home port. His ship sinks in the harbor, he goes ashore after being saved by the Pilot and the Pilot's boy, and he confesses to the Hermit of the Wood. From then on, he lives a calmer, although often troubled life when he has to retell his allegorical story. The intention of retelling it is, in all likelihood, a way of helping someone work through the same journey through life.