Ozymandias Questions and Answers
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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What's the alliteration in Ozymandias by Percy Shelley?

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You can probably identify alliteration without much assistance. Alliteration is simply a literary device where the same initial letter is repeated in several words within close proximity. However, a better question is why the poet uses alliteration, and what effect he is aiming for. When we see alliteration in any poem, the first thing to do is establish why the author chose to alliterate using that particular letter—what does it add to the poem? What sensation or mood does that letter evoke in the reader?

The difference between "stone / Stand," for example, and "sand...sunk...shattered" can be readily identified. The sound "st" is a solid, stoic one, suggesting something that is steady and of enduring construction. This sense is belied, however, by the shattered visage sunk in the sand. This alliterative series suggests a certain softness, shifting sands slithering or slipping away—the complete opposite of the endurance suggested by a word (and a material) like "stone."

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