An Introduction to Imagery
Imagery is a figurative device in which what is present only to the mind, is represented as actually before one’s eyes, and present to the senses.
Imagery is one of the more important literary device. It is regarded as the “heart and soul of poetryOpens in new window” where sensory details in a work are vivified by the use of figurative language to evoke a feeling, call an idea to the imagination of the mind, or describe an object.
In poetry, a poet merely implies his message using imagery which can appeal to any of the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) and this is not limited to the five senses, it appeals to internal feelings too.
- I love those skies, thin blue or snowy gray,
Those fields sparse-planed, rendering meager sheaves;
That spring, briefer than appleblossom’s breath,
summer, so much too beautiful to stay,
Swift autumn, lika a bonfire of leaves,
And sleepy winter, like the sleep of death.
Figurative imagery involves metaphorOpens in new window, simileOpens in new window, and other figures of speech (such as metonymyOpens in new window, synecdocheOpens in new window, personificationOpens in new window, allegoryOpens in new window), by means of which one thing (vehicle) is said while another (tenor) is meant. A figurative image may be said to be abstract or concrete according to whether the vehicle is more abstract or more concrete than the tenor. While concrete images are common, abstract ones are rare. An example of abstract images is from T.S. Eliot’sOpens in new window “The Love Song of J. Alfred PrufrockOpens in new window”:
- “Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question.”