What is the narrator's point of view toward Ozymandias?

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In the sonnet "Ozymandias" by Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, two narrators appear. The first line introduces the sonnet's narrator, the "I" of the poem, yet this character does not appear again in the poem. The remainder of the poem consists of the words of the "traveler from an antique land" who speaks to the first narrator about what he has seen there. Since they are the words of the traveler himself, we can consider him the second narrator. Although he is ostensibly describing a scene dispassionately, his word choices nevertheless give away an impression about Ozymandias, the Egyptian King known as Rameses II, who ruled in the 13th century B.C. Based on the "visage" of the fallen statue of the ruler, the narrator concludes that he had "a sneer of cold command," a mocking hand, and an oppressive heart--"the heart that fed." These are certainly not neutral descriptors. The narrator must feel that the ruler was cruel, unjust, and merciless. The narrator describes the inscription, which declares the ruler's utter supremacy, without comment. After that, he concludes the description of the scene by describing the surrounding landscape--a vast and lifeless desert. He places the "decay of that colossal wreck" in a setting that denies the narcissistic inscription the ruler had ordered. This may give the narrator some satisfaction as he realizes that this unjust potentate can no longer exert control, can no longer command, mock, or feed on his subjects. The tyrant is now fallen onto the "level" sands, bringing him down to the position of other mere mortals. The narrator's choice to focus on those endless sands may indicate he prefers a more democratic or republican form of governing that does not set one person above all others, suggesting that Ozymandias has received his just desserts in the end.


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Percy Bysshe Shelly's "Ozmandias" is an example of the narrator as a first person observer, an active voice in the poem, who nonetheless does not directly inject his personal opinion into the poem. The narrator is present in the poem, yet remains observational, creating the necessary distance required to allow the reader to judge for him or herself what is occurring within the poem. 

The reader is presented with an ancient statue sitting in desert sands.              

"Two vast and trunkless legs of stone                                                      Stand in the desert."

The statue is obviously in disarray, ravaged by time.  It is the statue of a once great king, now strew across a desolate landscape.

"And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is OZYMANDIAS, King of Kings.
Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains."

The narrator's point of view is the point of view of a dispassionate observer, which makes the impact of the poem so much the greater. The narrator makes no comment on Ozmandias, and merely allows the facts presented within the poem to powerfully speak for themselves.

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