Xavier Journal of Undergraduate Research

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On the Appropriation of Shelley's "Ozymandias" in AMC’s Breaking Bad


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As lead character Walter White increasingly transforms from relatable everyman to overzealous despot, AMC’s television show Breaking Bad uses Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias” both implicitly and explicitly. Partly functioning as a marketing technique to draw attention to the show, the appropriation also links Breaking Bad to the classic narrative Shelley’s poem remains rooted in—tyrannical hubris climaxing in devastation. Walter, especially from the beginning of season five to the show’s end, evokes the tyrannical aspirations of invincibility and arrogance of Ozymandias himself as represented in Shelley’s poem. Ultimately, the foolish vanity and overzealous aspirations of both Walter and Ozymandias result in a destructive path culminating in each figure’s demise.

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