Examine Christabel as an allegory. Discuss the problem of evil in Christabel
The theme of the poem presents an aspect of the ever-recurring struggle between. evil, and good between motiveless malice and pure innocence. This eternal struggle stands for the struggle between good and evil, between the powers of light and darkness, which is going on in the universe from the days of creation. Christabel represents good, while Geraldine stands for evil. The spirit of the dead mother of Christabel is the symbol of the good angel that ever on the side of innocence, but whose power is often too weak to protect innocent malignity of evil, but such a spirit is ever ready to come to the rescue of wronged virtue and innocence whenever the occasion arises. Sometimes, evil, masquerading as wronged virtue and innocence, seeks the aid of good in order to destroy it. Geraldine is a perfect example of such an evil force.
Coleridge himself said that the poem is based on the idea that the virtuous of the world are saved from the wicked. The “Virtuous of the world” is Christabel, and Geraldine represents “the wicked”. Geraldine, the symbol of evil incarnate, poses as wronged virtue in distress. She concocts a story that she has been kidnapped by five ruffian knights who have left her in the forest with a promiseto return soon and take her away. In this disguise the evil spirit seeks the sympathy and shelter of unsuspecting innocence as Geraldine sought the protection of Christabel. Christabel becomes convinced of the lady’s bonafide and does “stretch forth” her hand, when Geraldine prepares to destroy Christabel by her spell, she has to struggle hard against the spirit of Christabel’s mother, who appears on the scene, quite invisible to Christabel, in order to protect her innocent daughter. This is the way how the evil power gets entry into the world of virtue in order to destroy. Sometimes evil proves to be stronger than good which enjoys heavenly bliss and intervention, and so good is defeated by evil and thus fails to shield virtue. But the defeat of good by evil is temporary. Good always reigns supreme and evil is ultimately crushed.
The moral which is conveyed to us is that to give shelter to Evil without being conscious of its nature is to be mysteriously affected by it, just as Christabel was affected by the spell of Geraldine. A spell is cast upon Christabel by Geraldine, which is the lord of her speech, and deprives her of her independent will. She lays in a trance in the embrace of the enchantress; and when she awakes, she smiles, perhaps because she feels that her guardian spirit” is near. This shows that innocence is always sure of protection from above. Christabel is assured in a sweet vision:
“That saints will aid if men will call
For the blue sky bends over all”
The evil power always maintains a distance from God. It cannot offer prayer to God. When Geraldine and Christabel cross the boundary and feel happy. Christabel suggests they should pray to Mary: “Praise’, we Virgin all divine Who hath rescued thee from thy distress! Geraldine who is an evil power is unable to pray. She tries to avoid the prayer to Virgine Mary, posing to be too tired to pray:
I cannot speak for weariness.”
It is by virtue of prayer that the good recovers its strength and wins ultimately. Christabel is like a youthful hermitess, who praying always prays in sleep “She has a firm conviction in the efficacy of prayer to ward off an evil influence. The mercy of God is bestowed on all and when innocence and good in distress pray for divine mercy, it is sure to be rescued. Christabel recovers from her painful trance and fell into a happy, natural dream. She triumphs over the evil power of Geraldine. God always helps and protects the virtuous. God responds. to the prayers of the virtuous. Though Christabel is affected by the evil design of Geraldine, an evil power, God ultimately comes forward to help Christabel to recover from her trance and distress. She succeeds in defeating the evil designs of Geraldine, symbolizing the evil power.