Use of Imagery

Use of Imagery

In order to achieve a high grade, you should show an understanding of a poet's use of imagery in a poem. In order to do this, you should not only identify the images, but also consider what effect they have on the reader and their importance to the poem.

  • Make sure that you back up your ideas with specific examples, rather than just commenting generally.
  • When you use a quotation, explain why you have chosen the quotation and its importance. This displays close textual analysis.

Below are a number of issues that you should consider when writing about a poet's use of imagery. Obviously not all of these issues will apply for every poem. However, if you run through them then you will find writing about imagery much easier.

Consider where the poet has used any of these: simile, metaphor, conceit, symbolism, figurative language, extended metaphor.

  • What images has the poet used?
  • Why has the poet used these images?
  • What effect do the images have on the reader?

Look out for use of: mood, tone, ideas, themes, feelings and irony.

  • How do the images link with the mood, tone and ideas of the poem?
  • What mood do the images create? Does this contrast with the rest of the poem?
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  • Does the poet focus on movement, feeling, sound, taste or appearance in the images?
  • Which senses is the image trying to appeal to?

An extended metaphor is when the poet builds on a metaphor.

  • Has the poet focused on only one image or used a range of images? What effect does this create?
  • Has the poet taken one image and developed it through the poem?

Consider these words for your answer: cultural significance, religious, devotional, symbolic, thematic.

  • What does the poet's choice of image tell you about their cultural or historical background?
  • Do the images have a religious background?
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  • Are the images meant to symbolise or represent something else?
  • Is there a theme linking the images used in the poem? Examples might include: love, death, fear, lust, religion, conflict, nature, violence. Does this add to your understanding of the poem?

The Five Senses:

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Poets, in their writing, often focus on the different senses. A simple way of focusing on the effects of a poem is by looking at which of the five senses the poet describes.

Is the poet trying to appeal to the taste, touch, smell, sight or hearing of the reader? Perhaps the poet focuses on just one of the senses? What sensation does this create?