Thursday, January 6, 2011

Echoes of Evil

“Christabel: A variety of Evil Experience” by Lawrence D. Berkoben takes us into the deeper meaning and style of writing of the poem Christabel by Samuel Coleridge. Our blog is about getting to the deeper meaning and understanding of Coleridge’s poetry. Berkoben believes that Coleridge used the echo motif in order to get readers more interested and involved since Coleridge tells the poem in third person. Coleridge does this so “the reader has to take sides” with one of the characters. First meeting Christabel as a sweet and innocent person that is constantly feared over for her safety.  Throughout the poem it says, “shield sweet Christabel” trying to ensure her safety. “Instead of answering his question, the narrator gratuitously interjects details of setting” creating the reader to decide the answer to the question given. When meeting Geraldine, the narrator goes on about how beautiful and divine she is but the evil in her is what makes her attractive. Throughout the poem Berkoben finds the hidden evil in the actions of the characters. The encounters Geraldine has with Sir Leoline and Bard Bracy  show they “see her as a beautiful and innocent maiden.” Berkoben does not have the same views as Sir Leoline and Bard Bracy. His opinion is that Geraldine has unnatural powers and can “communicate with the dead.”  Also, Berkoben thinks that she has the characteristics of a daemon or vampire or a loathly lady even though she is not labeled as one. He says that the dove and snake in Bracy’s dream means an ill omen of evil will fall upon Christabel. This vision echoes Geraldine’s spell working over Christabel. These events have the reader asking “why evil should befall the innocent.” In a universe where good and evil are blurred, Berkoben thinks that evil “can only exist in the eye of the beholder.” “Whether or not Coleridge could have pictured Geraldine’s redemption convincingly must remain unanswered,” since Coleridge never finished this poem. To Berkoben, Christabel is linked to Coleridge’s struggles to conclude “his determination to abandon poetry,” and could not “solve his ethical dilemma” without “his use of a dramatic speaker and the echo motif.”
            I found Lawerence’s view on this poem very helpful to understand the basics. I do not believe that the echo motif is what made this poem strong or to get readers interested. The questions asked by the narrator were easily answered in the next few lines fallowing. For example, “Is it the wind that moaneth bleak? There is not wind enough in the air To move away the ringlet curl From the lovely lady’s cheek,“ immediately answers the question. I do agree that Coleridge intended the reader to have to choose a side. I as a reader chose a side but I several times changed sides. The way Coleridge worded and phrases some of the poem had me confused. It took me longer to understand these parts but it helped to argue with what Berkoben thought to what I thought. From the very beginning I believed that Christabel was innocent and Geraldine was full of evil. As Berkoben sees Geraldine as a daemon, vampire or loathly lady I see her plainly as having an evil spirit. I also interpreted Bracy’s dream differently. I see the snake as Geraldine’s true self while the bird is her appearance. The dream says, “Swelling its neck as she swelled hers” showing that the snake and bird are as one. This is proven because Christabel sees Geraldine as the snake while both Sir Leoline and Bard Bracy see her as the hurt dove. Geraldine is a two faced woman who casts her evil upon the innocent. Evil is definitely a theme in this poem and I have found that evil can temp anyone. Christabel was known as being an innocent maiden yet Geraldine had the power to pull her into evil. When Sir Leoline starts to fall into Geraldine’s temptations Christabel tries to have him send her away immediately. Unfortunately, Sir Leoline does not listen to his daughter and continues to comfort Geraldine and fall into her hands. Christabel can stand against the evil spells and workings of Geraldine showing that we all can stay innocent and not fall into temptation.

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