Making it text-rich
The use of imagery in literature and the effect it creates
“It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!”
These beautiful lines from Romeo and Juliet, the epitome of all love stories that exist till date, manage to convey the essence of the story. Shakespeare’s use of imagery brings out the
meaning and the deep feelings of love, yearning and anguish
perfectly. The imagery incorporates the richness of jewels,
likening Juliet to a priceless gem and the darkness of the night is compared to the cheek bringing out Juliet’s richness as well
as the darkness that surrounds them.
Like Shakespeare, most writers use imagery to bring out emotions which need to be conveyed through words. Imagery refers to the vivid language that stirs up an emotional response. It is useful as it allows an author to add intensity and understanding to his work and make it an interesting read.
John Steinbeck uses imagery extensively to enhance the mood of his novella The Pearl. The two moods, the light, peaceful mood and the dark, scary mood, are both supported by imagery. The imagery makes you feel as though you are right there to glimpse, smell, listen, and experience what is in the story. This strengthens the moods and the reader is able to assess the meaning clearly. The light imagery in the story is bright and happy so that the frame of mind is directed towards what is happening and we are able to clearly perceive the emotions of the characters.
T S Eliot, a modern poet has made the use of imagery extensively. In his famous poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, he states:
“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a
The imagery of a patient is used to express the stillness of the evening; the use of imagery here describes or enhances the sensory understanding of the text. Visual imagery is used extensively as the writer tries to convey what he is visualising in his mind as he writes. Colours, features and descriptions provide an insight into the attributes of the character and the mood.
You must have come across extensive use of colours, red to describe anger, blue generally depicts peace, and pale is associated with fright. However, there are no generalisations here; the author is free to make his own associations.
Auditory imagery represents sounds. These images help us get into the exact frame of mind the author wants us to get into or whatever the author envisages is adequate for the setting. For example, in the poem ‘The Brook’ by Alfred Tennyson we get to almost see and hear a brook which is going on its course. The following lines help us to
almost hear it as it coursing along its path.
“I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles,”
The poem is definitely a visual and auditory treat! Another very famous or should I say immortal poem is William Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’. This poem is the best example of kinetic or energetic imagery with the daffodils "tossing their heads in sprightly dance".
Olfactory imagery is quite
naturally linked with smells. The author describes the sweet smells of nature, or the morning dew or the smell of freshly baked bread to
convey his feelings and to get into the skin of the character. Similarly, gustatory imagery represents taste. Imagery describing food or
anything related to taste falls in this category, for example, ‘The walking boots that taste of Atlantic and
Kinesthetic imagery can be
divided into: sense of touch, temperature, movement, and feelings. Examples of standing barefoot on a sandy beach and running your
fingertips on a satin fabric etc. give you an actual sense of touch.