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Imagery in Ozymandias

The imagery in “Ozymandias” is vivid but limited in scope. The poem contains one central image: the shattered statue of Ozymandias, the Egyptian king. The physical characteristics of the statue convey the poem’s themes: the transient nature of human life, and the ultimate futility of fame, fortune, and power. Despite the “vast” and “colossal” proportions of the statue—indications of its former distinction—the figure is shattered and alone amidst an expanse of desert. The image of the “lone and level sands” represents the eventual fate of humanity, with each human represented by an anonymous grain. The crumbling statue is well on its way to such a state.

Imagery Examples in Ozymandias:


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"Of that colossal wreck..."   (Ozymandias)

The statue, once a symbol of power and control, is now in the middle of a nameless expanse of desert, seen only by chance. The fact that the statue is in pieces emphasizes the hopelessness of striving for power and of believing that human power is permanent.

"stamped on these lifeless things..."   (Ozymandias)

A consistent theme of the Romantic poets is the mutability of human existence—in this case, the inevitable fall of the mighty into obscurity. Shelley, by juxtaposing the "sneer of cold command" with "these lifeless things," reminds his readers that even absolute power disappears into lifelessness and oblivion.

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