Imagery & Figurative Language Animage is a word or sequence of words that refers to any sensory experience (Kennedy and Gioia 741).
Imagery What are your five senses? Sight, Hearing, Touch, Taste, and Smell An image conveys a sense perception, i.e., a visual picture, a sound, a feeling of touch, a taste, or an odor Imagery = a noun used to refer to a set of related images in poem or the totality of images in a poem: Shelley uses nature imagery in his poem To Autumn.
Figures of Speech Figurative language uses figures of speech to convey unique images and create some sort of special effect or impression. A figure of speech is an intentional deviation from the ordinary usage of language.
Poetry works by comparison Poets often create images or enhance meaning by comparing one thing to another for special effect. A most important figure of speech is the Metaphor
The term metaphor has two meanings, a broad, more general meaning and a concise, specific meaning. –All figures of speech which use association, comparison, or resemblance can generally be called types of metaphor, or metaphorical. –One specific figure of speech which compares two things by saying that one IS the other is called a metaphor.
Simile A simile is a type of metaphor, a figure in which an explicit comparison is made using the comparative words like, as, resembles, than. Similes are easy to spot. (X is like Y: X is compared to Y in order to illustrate X more fancifully, poetically, or effectively. But Y is not a literal representation of X, not actual.) The teams center looked like a skyscraper. My love is like a red, red rose. We were as quiet as frightened mice.
More similes Kennedy and Gioia offer a good list of ways to make a simile: My love is like a red, red rose. My love resembles a rose. My love is redder than a rose. She came out smelling like a rose! (767)
Metaphor A metaphor also compares, but a metaphor is a bit more sophisticated than a simile. For one thing, in a metaphor, the words like or as are missing. So readers have to recognize the comparison on their own without those easy words which help us to spot a simile so quickly.
Metaphor (continued) In a metaphor, a poet writes that X is Y. Readers understand that we are not to take the comparison literally, but that the metaphor helps us to see X in a new way. My brother is a prince. Razorback Stadium was a slaughterhouse.
More metaphors Richard was a lion in the fight. Her eyes are dark emeralds. Her teeth are pearls. But Avoid Mixed Metaphors (combining two or more incompatible images in a single figure of speech): Management extended an olive branch in an attempt to break some of the ice between the company and the workers.
Implied Metaphor Kennedy and Gioia offer a kind of metaphor (767) lacking the actual to be verb (is, am, are, was, were and other such forms of the verb to be) called an Implied Metaphor What is implied here about the speakers love? Oh, my love has petals and sharp thorns. Oh, I placed my love into a long-stemmed vase And I bandaged my bleeding thumb. And here, what is implied about the city and the subway? The subway coursed through the arteries of the city.
Extended Metaphor This kind of metaphor may run through an entire work. In George Orwells Animal Farm, for example, the farm is compared to a nation, with different possible forms of goverance. This comparison extends throughout the novel. Sometimes a poet will use an extended metaphor throughout a poem rather than simply as one single figure of speech in a poem.
Dead Metaphor A dead metaphor has been so used and overused that it has lost its power to surprise, delight, or effectively compare. A cliché is a dead metaphor, a phrase so often repeated that it no longer has force: –He hit the nail on the head. –She was cool as a cucumber. –Jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. –This powerpoint show is crystal clear. –Avoid the use of clichés in your own writing!
Personification Another kind of comparison is called personification. Here, animals, elements of nature, and abstract ideas are given human qualities. John Milton calls time the subtle thief of youth (599). Homer refers to the rosy fingers of dawn (599). Other examples of personification – The stars smiled down on us. – An angry wind slashed its way across the island.
The three main uses of figurative language needed to read poetry are the previous : –Simile –Metaphor –Personification –But there are many other poetic devices used. The more you recognize, the richer your reading experience can be. –Here follow more figures of speech:
Oxymoron Oxymoron - two contradictory terms are placed side by side, usually for an effect of intensity: darkness visible (John Milton) burning ice People often enjoy joking sarcastically by declaring certain pairs of words to be oxymorons: military intelligence
Hyperbole Hyperbole (hy per bo lee) is intentional exaggeration or overstating, often for dramatic or humorous effect: Your predicament saddens me so much that I feel a veritable flood of tears coming on:
Understatement The intentional understatement is used for effect also: Thank you for this Pulitzer Prize: I am pleased. Another kind of understatement called Litotes occurs when a negative is used to state a positive: When I won the Pulitzer Prize, I was not unhappy.
Apostrophe A person or thing which is absent is addressed: What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman (Ginsberg 599). Oh sun, I miss you, now that its December.
Metonymy In this figure (m tawn nimee) one thing is replaced by another thing associated with it: The Crown is amused (The Crown is the Queen). The White House is furious (The White House is the President).
Synecdoche Here, (sin nec duh kee) a part represents the whole: All hands on deck! Lend me your ears. Lets buy one hundred head of cattle!
Want more? Figures of speech are numerous. The effective practice of communication is called rhetoric, and many, many figures of speech can be identified in language use. Some other figures are anachronism, euphemism, pun, and onomatopoeia (o no mat o pee ya). In this last figure, words are used to convey sound, like Oh no, you say? Here it comes! bzzzz or cock-a-doodle-doo.
Birkerts, Sven. Literature: The Evolving Canon. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1993. Ginsberg, Allen. A Supermarket in California. Literature: The Evolving Canon. Sven P. Birkerts, ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1993. 599. Kennedy, X.J. and Dana Gioia, eds. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 7th ed. New York: Longman, 1999. Works Cited
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