Representation of Power in Ozymandias: Critical Analysis

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How Power is presented in Ozymandias and London are very similar but there are some anomalies. For example the way both poems are structured. In London, there are paragraphs. Four in fact. I suggest that this has to do with how power in William Blake's time was controlled. The space between the paragraphs symbolises the change of power or power is not continuously in one person's hand. On the other hand ozymandias is one paragraph symbolising continuous power held by one person.

Power is presented quite strongly in both Ozumandias and London. In London, the quote 'runs in blood down palace walls' ‘ connotes the powerful rich and the elite using everyday people for their advantages. Such as in war. This also ties into the context of the time when the french revolution was just occurring. The revolution saw a lot of people die on both sides of the wealth spectrum, especially against the rich. In Ozymandias, The quote 'Ye Mighty and despair!' shows as power through fear. The adjective ’Despair' highlights this fear and who power is held tighty compared to London.

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London compared to Ozymandias has much stronger imagery. This is shown in the quote ‘But thro’ midnight streets I hear - How the youthful harlots curse' The adjective youthful suggests that young people don't have much power of their own. This isn't helped by the fact that these young women are prostitutes. The descriptions of the prostitutes cursing leaves a strong impression on the reader. In ozymandias however the poem does not mention ordinary people at all. Instead it focuses on the image of ozymandias. Being powerful and all. This might be because of the lack of historical text from ozymandias time about ordinary life. As a result shelley has presented ozymandias based on a statue and its descriptions. This does not accurately help us if this power had ramifications on people or if the people held the actual power.

Ozymandias features frequent short pauses despite its form. For example ‘I met a traveller from an antique land, (PAUSE) Who said - (PAUSE)’. I suspect this has to do with making the rather large paragraph easier to read, However it could suggest the cracks in power that ozymandias has and that he is trying to flaunt his image with this statue. In London we can see that there are 4 lines per stanza and we see the repetition of In three times in the second stanza. I presume this has to do with the continuity of the same politics done by different people. People who want to maintain the status quo for their benefit.

In relation to tone, I think that Ozymandias is more aggressive. This is due to the fact that Ozymandias himself is a tyrant and wants to present himself that way through the statue. Shelley has therefore added imperative verbs such as ‘Cold command’ to emit this aggressive tone. In london Blake parents his poems in a reflective tone. This is due to the fact Blake was observing what he saw in london and the inequality that he witnessed between the powerful and the powerless.

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Representation of Power in Ozymandias: Critical Analysis. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
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