1. What is it?

Imagery is the use of descriptive language to appeal to a reader’s senses. It ‘paints a picture’ of sights, sounds, tastes, etc..

Visual imagery: what can be seen
Auditory imagery: what can be smelt
Olfactory imagery: what can be tasted
Tactile imagery: what can be physically felt
Kinaesthetic imagery: how a body or object moves
Subjective imagery: what can be emotionally felt

2. Why use it?

Describe taste, touch, smells etc..Appealing to senses can elicit more reader emotion.
Show writing techniques via descriptive adjectives
verbs, similes, metaphors, and onomatopoeia.
Particularly useful in forms that describe a scene,
such as fiction, poetry and biography.

3. Examples

The room was dark, too dim to make out more than the shadowy outline of objects at the far end, but had a crisp taste of diesel oil. The air felt close, and old, and unwelcoming. He groped his hand forwards, towards the shapes across from him, like a drunk unable to find the lights and aiming for his wife’s bed. Inside his head he imagined bats, and rats, and other creatures of the night he widely avoided, and promised himself that his son would go to the basement next time instead. This was not fatherly behaviour, but he had long suspected that adulthood did not truly suit him. Not a brave man, Andy was a spring flower: a daffodil rather than the strong oak of a father a child should expect and would respect.

Vinnie fell on to the lightly-browned autumnal grass and lay there, his stomach rising and falling as his heart beat excitedly inside his chest. Slowly, however, as he regained his breath, that little hill of abdominal flesh slowed. His heart found a peace that he hadn’t felt for many years, and although there was little to see – just the soft blue sky and a single half-formed cloud – his senses were tingling. The smell of the freshly cut straw, still scattered in the field, rolled across his face like a soft wind. Beyond, two birds were speaking to each other in awkward squawks that sounded like an overweight couple arguing about trivial affairs. Finally, against his skin, he felt the tiny tips of the lawn trying to rise back up, pushing at his body, reaching for the light. A return to college seemed so far away.

4. Examples in literature

Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad

Know Your Book

Title: Heart of Darkness
Author: Joseph Conrad (Józef Korzeniowski) (1857-1924)
Published: 1899 (serial), 1902 (book)
Language: English
Genre: Fiction; novella; colonialist literature
Plot: Marlow recounts a time he captained trading ships on the Congo River. On one journey he was sent far upstream to an ivory trading station run by a mysterious European called Kurtz, about whom there are rumours of illness. When Marlow reaches Kurtz after a long sail through the Congo jungles, he finds a man who is isolated from European culture, a quasi-god to locals, and possibly insane. sells his watch in order to buy Della some combs for her hair. Both presents are therefore useless, but the sacrifices the couple made prove their love.
Setting: Congo River
Characters: Charles Marlow, Colonel Kurtz

Excerpt from Chapter 2

Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the water-way ran on, deserted, into the gloom of over-shadowed distances. On silvery sand-banks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side. The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once — somewhere — far away — in another existence perhaps.

Skimming, Scanning and Basic Comprehension

1. In simple terms, what does the passage describe?
2. What form of transport is the character using?
3. In which continent does Heart of Darkness take place? 
Identifying Techniques

4. How would you describe the image the author has created? What sort of atmosphere does the passage have? How has the author created this?
5. Highlight the adjectives the writer uses to describe the scenery. Do the adjectives have anything in common?
6. The writer uses some unusual nouns. Circle the nouns you feel are unusual.
7. As well as through word choice, Conrad uses sentence length and patterns to create atmosphere. What examples of sentence length and patterns affecting the mood can you find? 
Text Analysis

8. How does the writer compare the past and the present?
9. How do the actions of the animals and trees differ from the emotions of the narrator?
10. Is there a difference between the writer’s description of the foreground and the background?
11. What effect is created by the writer’s use of em dashes in the final sentence? 
Provoking Opinion

12. If you were embarking on this journey, how would you pass it? How would you feel?
13. Changing language can change a passage’s mood. What words would you substitute to make this passage appear cheerful, without changing the action?
14. Conrad’s life as a sailor during colonial times helped him write books involving travel to distant lands. What sort of books would your professional life be suited towards?
15. Heart of Darkness only has 3 chapters: the set up, the journey, and the climax. Do you think this is enough to tell a story? Can you think of any other books that have a small number of scenes?

The Leopard
by Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Know Your Book

Title: Il Gattopardo (*trans: The Leopard)
Author: Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1896-1957)
Published: 1958
Language: Italian
Genre: Fiction; historical novel
Plot: As Garibaldi’s revolution to unify Italy begins, Prince Fabrizio is a member of an aristocratic family, mildly bored with his home life, and amusing himself with mistresses and astronomy. Excitement comes, however, when Fabrizio meets his nephew Tancredi, a Garibaldi supporter. Another acquaintance, wealthy local mayor Don Calogero, hints at a new non-aristocratic Italy where men like Fabrizio are history. The happiness of the new generation, however, is far from guaranteed.
Setting: Sicily in the Risorgimento
Characters: Prince Fabrizio; Prince Tancredi; Don Calogero; Angelica

Excerpt from Chapter 2 (translated from Italian):

Scorning the table of drinks, glittering with crystal and silver on the right, he moved left towards that of the sweet-meats. Huge sorrel babas, Mont Blancs snowy with whipped cream, cakes speckled with white almonds and green pistachio nuts, hillocks of chocolate-covered pastry, brown and rich as the top soil of the Catanian plain from which, in fact, through many a twist and turn they had come, pink ices, champagne ices, coffee ices, all parfaits and falling apart with a squelch at a knife cleft; a melody in major of crystallised cherries, acid notes of yellow pineapple, and green pistachio paste of those cakes called “Triumphs of Gluttony”, shameless “Virgins’ cakes” shaped like breasts. Don Fabrizio asked for some of these, and as he held them on his plate looked like a profane caricature of Saint Agatha claiming her own sliced-off breasts. “Why ever didn’t the Holy Office forbid these puddings when it had the chance?
‘Triumphs of Gluttony’ indeed! (Gluttony, mortal sin!) Saint Agatha’s sliced-off teats sold by convents, devoured at dances! Well Well!”
Round the room smelling of vanilla, wine, chypre, wandered Don Fabrizio looking for a place. Tancredi saw him from his table and clapped a hand on a chair to show there was room there; next to him was Angelica, peering at the back of a silver dish to see if her hair was in place. Don Fabrizio shook his head in smiling refusal. He went on looking; from a table he heard the satisfied voice of Pallavicino, “The most moving moment of my life…” By him was an empty place. What a bore the man was! Wouldn’t it be better, after all, to listen to Angelica’s refreshing if forced cordiality, to Tancredi’s dry wit? No, better bore oneself than bore others.

1. The feast could be described as

a) decadent
b) sombre
c) spiritual
d) exotic
e) immaculate

2. ‘Triumphs of gluttony’ refers to a contrast between

a) taste and appearance
b) affluence and poverty
c) reality and hope
d) temptation and religious morality
e) food and wine

3. Which of the following is not used in the imagery describing the food?

a) Smell
b) Memory
c) Music
d) Earth
e) Sound

4. Don Fabrizio’s attitude to Pallavicino is

a) empathetic
b) amiable
c) disdainful
d) jovial
e) cruel

5. Which of the following could not be applied to describe imagery within both the passages of The Leopard and Heart of Darkness?

a) sensory
b) wild
c) grandiose
d) overpowering
e) awe-inspiring


5. Tasks

Task 1: Create a paragraph that describes the sights, sounds, smells, etc. in a scene.
Task 2: Write a scene using strong imagery. Remember to consider different types of imagery (visual, audio, etc.) and different techniques (adjectives, verbs, similes, etc.).