Despair and destruction are very powerful and meaningful concepts when writing a poem. I have chosen to write about the poems “Ozymandias” and “The Interesting Narrative” about how destruction and despair define both poem’s. In the poem “Ozymandias,” Percy Bysshe Shelley uses the desert’s despair and destruction of manmade glory to show the Romantic idea that nature overpowers man is not as powerful and meaningful as the destructiveness and despair of the slave trade in the poem “The Interesting Narrative” by Olaudah Equiano.
In “Ozymandias”, the statue signifies mankind and the desert is “nature” showing its dominance over man. Although the poem is short it is has a powerful theme when it comes to destruction and so called irony of King Ozymandias. The half sunk statue lays in ruins and on the statue it says “My name is “Ozymandias”, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and Despair! ”(Shelley, 10-11) But around the statue lay nothing but lonely sands and despair. Shelley frequently reminds us that the statue is described as in a state of “decay” and as a “colossal wreck. The lone and level sands stretch far away. ” (14) His choice in wording I believe draws the reader in and makes them interested in understanding the poem perfectly because it is interesting. The irony of King Ozymandias is that he says “look on my works” and when you looked around there was nothing but sand and destruction. In “The Interesting Narrative” Equiano’s own life bears testament to how terribly it has harmed everyone involved in the slave trade. African’s were taken from their families and lost all contact with them in the process.
Equiano’s journey begins when he is kidnapped from his village with his sister, from whom he is eventually separated. The bonds of husband and wife, brother and sister, and mother and child were completely annihilated. Slaves upon arrival were given new names, their identities from before were erased. Imagining the pain and suffering these people went threw is unbelievable. Anything that revolved around people’s history, culture, way of life, values, were almost completely obliterated by the dominant society that kept them as chattel.
They were subject to the most horrific punishments for any reason that seemed fit. Equiano was traded to different masters throughout the poem, among them showing cruelty and kindness. However, they are all complicit in its horrors, and hence does he endeavor through his work to show them the error of their ways. “Ozymandias” and “The Interesting Narrative” help the reader understand a little more about destruction and despair. Once I read “Ozymandias” I understood a little bit about destruction and despair and how it affects people and nature.
However, after reading the Interesting Narrative I was able to see destruction and despair on a whole new level. “Ozymandias” is about the despair of the King’s statue laying in ruins alone with nothing around it and the destructive power of nature overpowering mankind. Whereas “The Interesting Narrative” is about the despair of people being kidnapped and how the slave trade’s destructive ways slowly destroys the peoples will. The slaves are suffering and losing the ones they love all for the benefits of other without even having a say in the matter.
Then to make matter worse they have to be punished, traded to other people (masters) like they’re nothing more than a tool. In conclusion, both poems show similarities when it comes to destruction and despair. However, even though that may be true, “The Interesting Narrative” has a lot more in depth meaning than “Ozymandias” when it comes to those two concepts. The emotions are high when reading the Interesting Narrative, and the fact that people can relate to emotions is critical.
Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano. The Longman Anthology of British Literature. 5th. 2A. David Damrosch, Susan Wolfson, Peter Manning. Boston: Pearson. p.g (868-70)
Shelley, B. Percy. Ozymandias.The Longman Anthology of British Literature. 5th. 2A. Editors. David Damrosch, Susan Wolfson, Peter Manning. Boston. Pearson. p.g (877)