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Essay on comparing power in Ozymandias and London

Hello

I would be really grateful if someone could read my GCSE English Literature Paper 2 Section B answer and give me a mark out of 30. I know it's obvious I took a lot longer than 50 minutes, but I really want to practise writing good essays without time restrictions before trying to get better at time management!

Thank you so much!

Compare how the poets present ideas about power in 'Ozymandias' and in one other poem from 'Power and conflict'. [30 marks]

Published during the Romantic Era, Ozymandias written by Percy Shelley and London written by William Blake express contrasting views about the effect of power in oppressive rule, and outlooks on rebellion against cruel regimes. Their contrasting views help the audience take different approaches to the oppression that they face.


In Ozymandias, oppressive regimes seem to have little effect, as Shelley emphasizes on the transience of power. The break of rhyming for ‘command’ and ‘things’ is deliberate and demonstrates how despite the strength and power that exists on the outside, oppressive regimes are flawed and corrupt on closer look. The symbolism of the statue is used as a physical representation of the might of political institutions, but it being ‘shattered’ shows how comparatively fragile human institutions are. The constant alliteration of /s/ sounds like in ‘sands stretch far away’ fill the poem with hissing, similar to something being engulfed by the sand, slowly sinking. The sand is a symbol of nature destroying all human achievements, but is also symbolic of time, as it alludes to an hourglass. This comforts those who are under tyrannical leaderships, as similar to how time has eroded away Ozymandias’ empire, Shelley implies that time will erode away their pain and anguish.


In contrast, Blake, in London, shows that oppression is not only powerful, but affects everyone. Blake writes ‘every black’ning church appalls,’ which is ambiguous: it could suggest that Blake feels sorry for the church for how it has had to change, but is more likely showing the irony of how the church, which should have been helping the poor, has now turned ‘black’ which gives connotations of possession and shadowed by the devil and unfeeling for them. Blake himself was very critical of the church, as at the time, intoxicated by selfishness and greed for power, the church refused to help the countless children in the streets who had been forced into poverty. Noticeably, Blake describes three faces of suffering: the sibilance in ‘hapless soldier’s sigh’ physically sounds like an exhale, and describes the suffering of a respectable man, who despite being a patriot of the country, cannot escape the imposed oppression; a ‘youthful harlot’s curse’ describes the suffering of a young woman who has been forced to become a prostitute; and a ‘chimney sweeper’s cry’ describes the suffering of a child who has been forced into working in dangerous labour conditions, ruining the innocence of its childhood. What is common in these three people is that they all must sell the only thing they own their bodies in order to live. Blake emphasizes that oppression exists in everyone’s lives: in the lives of those morally good, in the lives of those morally evil, and the lives of the little children who are too innocent to recognize their torture. There is irony in the first line in ‘chartered Thames,’ as rivers are traditionally viewed as a symbol of freedom, but the Thames in particular, once a wild river, has now been restricted by man for its own ambitions, enraging the audience and bringing them out of the stupor of urban life.


In Ozymandias, Shelley creates an atmosphere of hope by showing the power of art in rebellion against oppressive regimes. The harsh /k/ sounds used in the alliteration of ‘king of kings’ that the sculptor wrote in the inscription underneath the statue captures the cruelty and cold sharpness of the personality of Ozymandias despite it not being explicitly said. The caesura in ‘Nothing beside remains.’ after the boastful inscription creates an aural echo of emptiness and serves as a moment of silence for the dead empire; it highlights the fact that the only form that does remain is art, unlimited by time and decay. Shelley’s ridicule of the boastful arrogance is veiled condemnation of the English government under King George III, and the poem Ozymandias is a hidden warning that Britain’s political institutions can expect the same if the oppressive nature of life in Britain does not change. As a romantic poet, Shelley encourages the audience to act against oppression by making art, as it can have power beyond those who commissioned it: Ozymandias ordered the sculpture to be made to flex his powers, but the sculptor managed to capture the haughty cruelty that will serve to mock Ozymandias for many years to come.


In contrast, while in Ozymandias, people have the power to rebel against their government, in London, Blake shows the oppression of urban life is inescapable, as it is the oppressed people who dig their own graves. The alliteration of /m/ in ‘mind-forged manacles’ creates an atmosphere associated with abundant misery. The misery is ‘mind-forged,’ suggesting it could have been happy, but people are focused on greed and thirst for power, and the imagery of ‘manacles’ implies that this way of life is limiting human imagination, showing that humans are inflicting this torture upon themselves. The anaphora ‘In every’ in stanza 2 creates an atmosphere of inescapability, which is emphasized when the narrator ‘wanders,’ making life seem aimless, and misery being established as part of everyday life. Blake implies that the urban way of life, focused on economic activity, is flawed, and that people have no way to openly rebel against it, as the problem originates from within themselves.


To conclude, Shelley portrays a more positive atmosphere within an oppressive regime, comforting people by showing that power is transient and that they have the power to rebel in the form of art, whereas Blake portrays a bleaker atmosphere within an oppressive regime, implying that there is no hope for collective change unless people have the power to change from within.
(edited 11 months ago)
i thought i was was pretty awesome at english but damn bestie ty for destroying my self esteem T-T i needed that reality check lmfao. this is def a 30/30 in my book–if the four messy, unsophisticated, barely edited essays i did for my literature mocks can get 25/25 (i do igcses), this gets full marks too. if 35/30 was a thing you'd probably get it.

im curious abt english literature gcses, can you tell me how they go? do you do cambridge or edexcel?

ik literally nobody asked but for english literature igcses (cambridge), we write 2 essays in 1h30mins, twice. 1 thematic question, 3 extract analyses; 1 poem, 1 classic, 1 modern, 1 shakespeare. when i tell u my hand was shaking like crazy by the end of both T-T my handwriting was visibly messed up from how my entire arm was quivering after writing sm and so fast. im wondering if you guys have to do more/less essays, with how much time?
Reply 2
Thank you so much! Like I said, I would never be able to reproduce this in an exam: I took over 2 hours (in real life, you're only allowed 50 minutes) and I had all my notes open in front of me!

That's really interesting.. Our school's exam board is AQA. For English Literature GCSEs, we have 2 paper. The first paper is 1 hour 45 minutes: Section A is an essay on Shakespeare which is worth 34 marks, and Section B is modern which is worth 30 marks. The second paper is 2 hours 15 minutes: Section A is Animal Farm stuff (I'm not sure what that comes under!) which is 34 marks, Section B is Anthology poetry which is worth 30 marks, and Section C is unseen poetry which is worth 32 marks. I think you guys might be doing more essays..

Like you said, the English literature exams are always so intense. My fingers always feel like they are glitching halfway through!
Original post by user567809
Thank you so much! Like I said, I would never be able to reproduce this in an exam: I took over 2 hours (in real life, you're only allowed 50 minutes) and I had all my notes open in front of me!

That's really interesting.. Our school's exam board is AQA. For English Literature GCSEs, we have 2 paper. The first paper is 1 hour 45 minutes: Section A is an essay on Shakespeare which is worth 34 marks, and Section B is modern which is worth 30 marks. The second paper is 2 hours 15 minutes: Section A is Animal Farm stuff (I'm not sure what that comes under!) which is 34 marks, Section B is Anthology poetry which is worth 30 marks, and Section C is unseen poetry which is worth 32 marks. I think you guys might be doing more essays..

Like you said, the English literature exams are always so intense. My fingers always feel like they are glitching halfway through!


you guys have unseen poetry?? we just study 15 poems and get one of them to write an essay on. damn your papers are so long bestie my heart goes out to you rn 😭 1h30 is alr bad enough. but ig were not native speakers so they expect less?? idk whether to be glad or offended

literature was so difficult in terms of time that i ended up speedrunning the whole language mock in fear that it would be the same. i was so worried i wouldnt have time to finish that i finished both language papers like 30 mins early, i rly hope going fast didnt impair the quality tm :')

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