Discussion Topic

Explanation of the synecdoche in the line "The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed" in "Ozymandias."


The synecdoche in "The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed" from "Ozymandias" represents the sculptor's hand and the ruler's heart. The hand symbolizes the artist's skill in mocking the tyrant's passions, while the heart represents the ruler's ruling spirit and generosity. This literary device highlights the interplay between the creator's interpretation and the subject's emotions.

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In "Ozymandias," whose hand and heart is referred to in the line "The Hand That Mocked Them And The Heart That Fed"?

The hand and heart referred to are the symbolic representations of the emotions of Ozymandias, the Egyptian king whose image was captured in the now-fallen sculpture. The traveller states that the sculptor read the emotions of the ancient king well and reflected them in the facial expression of the statue. Thus the "sneer of cold command" that the face of the statue depicts shows the "passions" that motivated the ruler's hands and heart. Just by looking at the facial expression, the traveller discerns that the king had a "hand that mocked them." In other words, he did not have kind and giving hands, or hands that protected his people. He reached his hands out in mockery, confirming to his subjects that they were worth little or nothing compared to his grandeur. Likewise, he had a "heart that fed." It was not a compassionate or loving heart, but one that preyed on his people, using them for his own gain and to satisfy his own desires. Interestingly, the parts of the statue that seem to be missing are the parts that contain the hands and the heart. The image is "trunkless." The head is visible, "half sunk," and the legs are still standing. But the traveller is able to extrapolate the missing pieces, the hand and the heart, from the expression the sculptor carved into the face.   

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In "Ozymandias," whose hand and heart is referred to in the line "The Hand That Mocked Them And The Heart That Fed"?

The poet is saying that the stone facial expression showing the passions of Ozymandias has survived long after both the tyrant and the sculptor are gone.  The “hand that mocked them” (meaning the passions depicted on the shattered visage) is the sculptor’s hand – the sculptor was “mocking” the passions (with a play on the two meanings of the word “mocked” – “copied” them and “ridiculed” them); the “heart that fed them” is the heart of the ruthless tyrant himself, Ozymandias.  The sense of the poem is that the arrogance of the ruler, his belief that his kingdom and his accomplishments would be unsurpassable and immortal, are ironically mocked by the fact that his statue, the only remnant of his reign, lies destroyed in “the lone and level sands,” and that human life, whether cruelly destructive or constructively creative, is temporal.  The poem is also reflective of Shelley's own view of the transitory nature of his own poetry. 

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Why is the line "The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed" in Ozymandias a synecdoche?

The first sentence in the AI-generated response is correct: “synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa.” It should be noted, however, that synecdoche more often uses a part of something to represent the whole; on the other hand, examples of synecdoche using a whole to represent a part is much less common.

The second AI-generated sentence

In the line "The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed," from Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem "Ozymandias," the "hand" and the "heart" are used to represent the entirety of Ozymandias himself.

and the rest of the AI-generated answer are incorrect. In the poem, the “hand” represents not King Ozymandias himself but the sculptor who created the statue of Ozymandias.

The sculptor captures Ozymandias’ arrogance and pomposity in shaping the late king’s face:

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Nonetheless, the lines that immediately follow the above lines describe the sculptor him/herself:

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

The artist “read [s]” well and communicates the haughty and domineering feelings (“passions”) of Ozymandias. The artist “stamp[s]” clues to Ozymandias’ nature on the ruins (“lifeless things).

The “hand” represents the sculptor who “mocks” these passions. The word “mock” means to mimic and to ridicule. Therefore, it makes sense to describe the sculptor as the “hand that mock[s]," copies, or recreates the late king’s visage with accuracy. The mocking hand also reveals the sculptor’s own taunting attitude toward Ozymandias and his ironic, ignoble downfall.

The “heart that fed” represents the sculptor and the pleasure he or she gains in creating such an unflattering statue (of an arrogant king) that has crumbled.

The first sentence of the final paragraph in the AI-generated answer is incorrect:

Shelley is using synecdoche to give us a more vivid and impactful understanding of Ozymandias' character and actions.

In fact, Shelley uses synecdoche to help readers understand the sculptor’s critical view of Ozymandias.

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