Rime and Silence: An Examination of Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Silent Hill, and the Gothic

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s influence on modern media can be traced by examining the gothic elements available in the poem and in the video game “Silent Hill.”

Coleridge’s “Rime” has several decidedly gothic elements that are shown throughout his poem and help set up traditional horror storytelling.  Mystery and suspense pervade the poem, a story about a mariner who kills an albatross (a bird of good omen) and has to suffer the consequences while watching his shipmates die.  Readers are left to wonder how long the mariner will have to suffer while being stuck at sea and if he will die or live on to tell his tale.  There is also the element of tradition, with the albatross representing good luck in sailor lore.  When the albatross is killed by the mariner, he is cursed with watching his shipmates die one-by-one and then being stuck at sea to contemplate his fate.  The supernatural is also introduced through the character “Nightmare Life-in-Death,” a vampire-esque stand who gambles for the souls of the ship.  The supernatural is also present in the method of the shipmates death where they drop one-by-one staring at the mariner the entire time while he remains stuck at sea.  The atmosphere of the poem plays an essential gothic role as the endless fog and ocean create an illusion of being stuck and all alone.  And a final important element to examine is the state of mind of the main character where he questions his sanity as well as feeling guilt over his role in the death of the albatross and his shipmates.

These elements are readily present in the Konami video game “Silent Hill.”  The game is about a character named James Mason who drives into a fog-covered town, loses his daughter (revealed to be originally from the town), and then has to fight monsters on his way through the town to find her. The mystery of the game involves the town and why the main character is stuck there as well as if he will ever find his daughter and save them both.  There is also an element of tradition or prophecy that comes in the form of the little girl resembling someone said to bring doom and destruction to those who run the town (which does eventually happen).  The supernatural components come in the form of monsters who roam the town (mutated dogs, misshapen people with multiple limbs, and winged flying creatures) and plague the main character in his quest to find his daughter.  These creatures have also been twisted by the curse that plagues the town.  Additionally, the town is covered in a thick fog which prevents visibility and leaves the town cut off (any roads in and out are either out or get progressively less visible in the fog) and ensures that the character is one of the few human characters in the story.  James also has guilt, not only over the accidental loss of his daughter, but also over the death of his wife – shown in flashbacks and heavily hinted as to being a mercy killing by James.  His sorrow over her death and ability to raise their adopted daughter helps lead him to the town.

“Silent Hill” is often referred to as a survival horror game but survival horror, and horror in general obviously owe a lot to the Gothic, to “Rime”, and to Coleridge.

Resources:

Silent Hill. Frankfurt Am Main, Germany: Konami Digital Entertainment, 2012. Computer software

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