What is Imagery? Literary Definition of Imagery With Examples

Imagery definition: Imagery is language that appeals to one or more of the five senses.

What is Imagery? Imagery Literary Definition

What does imagery mean? Imagery is descriptive language used to appeal to a reader’s senses: touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight. By adding these details, it makes our writing more interesting.

Here is an example of how adding imagery enhances your writing.

  • Original sentence: She drank water on a hot day.
  • Added imagery: The cool, refreshing water quenched her thirst as the scorching sun radiated on her.

Types of Imagery

what is the definition of imageryWe mentioned that imagery appeals to one or more of our five senses. Let’s take a closer look at each sense individually.

Literary Imagery Examples

  • Visual: appeals to our sense of sight
    • The crimson apple glistened in her hand.
  • Auditory: appeals to our sense of sound
    • The roaring thunder frightened the little boy.
  • Olfactory: appeals to our sense of smell
    • The athlete’s sweaty gym clothes left a musty odor in the laundry room.
  • Gustatory: appeals to our sense of taste
    • The warm, salty broth soothed her sore throat as she ate the soup.
  • Tactile: appeals to our sense of touch
    • Prickly cactus posed as an obstacle to the men as hiked.

The Importance and Function of imagery

imagery english definitionImagery is important for writers to use in order for their language to appeal to the reader. Without imagery, readers may not imagine the world or situation in the intended manner the author had in mind.

Let’s take a look at how a description can clarify the meaning.

  • She held an apple.
    • The image in the reader’s mind could change depending on if the author describes this as a crimson apple or a mold-infested apple.

Examples of Imagery in Literature

Imagery is very important when writing fiction because the authors are required to use their words in order for the reader to imagine their stories.

Here are some examples of imagery being used in literature:

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee:

Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then; a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’ clock naps, and by nightfall were like stiff teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum. (6)

In this example, Lee uses various forms of imagery, including visual and tactile.

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury:

It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatter and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. (3)

In this example, Bradbury utilizes tactile imagery.

Both of these renowned authors employed imagery in order to effectively describe the settings in which their stories take place.

Summary: Imagery Definition Literature

Imagery English Definition: To re-cap, imagery is descriptive language that appeals to one or more of our senses.

Imagery allows the writer to use words to paint an image for readers as they enter the worlds created through words on a page.