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Imagery in Literature Imagery: a term used to refer to the actual language that a writer uses to convey a visual picture

(or, most critics would add, to create or represent any sensory experience. Imagery is a central component of almost all imaginative literature and is often said to be the chief element of poetry. Two major types of imagery exist- the literal and figurative. Literal imagery is purely descriptive, representing an object or event with words that draw on or appeal to the kind of experiences gained through the five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell). Figurative imagery may call to mind real things that can be perceived by the senses, but it does so as a way of describing something else- often some abstract idea that cannot be literally or directly described. Whether literal or figurative, however, imagery is generally intended to make whatever the author is describing concrete in the readers mind, to give it some tangible and real existence rather than a purely intellectual one. Imagery also provides the reader with a sense of vividness and immediacy. Imagery also has a specific and special relation to symbolism. All symbols depend on images, images that are often repeated to give the symbol cogency and depth. In Toni Morrisons novel Beloved (1987) , the repeated description of Sethes scarred back as wrought iron or as a tree serves to make her a symbolism of the slaves extraordinary physical and spiritual suffering and strength. Some critics have suggested that the key to unlocking the meaning of a work lies in identifying its image patterns and understanding how they work together to suggest or symbolize larger meanings or themes. These critics believe that the pattern of imagery in a work more truly reveals the works meaning than anything explicitly stated by a speaker, narrator, or author. Image, as an artistic term, image usually refers to an artistic representation of visible world and to the mental impressions conjured up by such a representation. When used specifically as a literally term, image most often denotes descriptive terms, or figurative language used to produce mental impressions in the mind of the reader- and to the impression thereby produced. Often these impressions or pictures are visual in nature, but not always, as he following sentence from Jayne Anne Philips novel Shelter (1994) aptly demonstrates; She felt the tug of memory, an image that pulled at her consciousness like a fish on a line Even the short story How my Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife written by Manuel E. Arguilla, has also incorporated an imagery in its last scene with the fathers cigarette as how it was described; He had laid the roll of tobacco on the windowsill once more. I watched the smoke waver faintly upward from the lighted end and vanish slowly into the night outside. It was more on showing than directly telling to the readers- the emotion subsided from the fathers anger with Leon with the imagery of the smoke fade away narrated from the brothers point of view. In its artistic and literary as well as in its more general usage, the term image may be used to mean vision or idea; one can speak of an artists or authors image of something (such as life and death, suffering, or marriage) to mean his or her conception of that thing.
Prepared by: Student-teacher, Nelson G. Calimag Source: Murfin, Ross. Supria, Ray, M. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Bedford Book. United States of America. 1998.