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Imagery

Imagery refers to the collection of images contained in a text. Imagery is not purely visual; instead it includes all sensory representations. If a writer makes you smell freshly-baked bread, see the new blade of grass, feel the agony of thirst or the warmth of a radiator on a cold day, then you have been affected by imagery. When you think about it, it seems miraculous that this can be achieved by the tiny squiggles that we call letters.

This quiz tests your knowledge of the different uses of imagery.

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  1. 'Gregor's eyes turned next to the window, and the overcast sky - one could hear raindrops beating on the window gutter - made him quite melancholy.' - What sensory imagery does Franz Kafka use in this passage from his short story, 'The Metamorphosis'?
    This is a straightforward example of the use of sensory imagery.  Kafka tells the reader to visualise the overcast sky through the window and describes the sound the raindrops make as they beat against the gutter
  2. 'No doubt I now grew very pale; - but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased - and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound - much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath - and yet the officers heard it not.' - What imagery does Edgar Allen Poe use in this extract from his short story, 'The Tell-Tale Heart'?
    He describes the sound through the simile (the muffled watch) and more literally (low, dull, quick).  Poe also uses internal alliteration:  the repetition of the 'ch' sound in 'much', 'such' and 'watch', which, by appearing as almost-regular beats, reinforces the imagined sound of the watch and of the tell-tale heart
  3. As well as using images drawn from the five senses, imagery also includes figurative language (language which is not restricted to its literal sense). Which of the following is NOT an example of figurative language?
    Sound imagery, such as onomatopoeia and alliteration, is also considered to be figurative language
  4. 'He was not interested in the snow. When he got off the freight, one early evening during the depression, Sargeant never even noticed the snow. But he must have felt it seeping down his neck, cold, wet, sopping in his shoes.' - What imagery does Langston Hughes use in this excerpt from his short story, 'On the Road'?
    'Sopping' is an example of onomatopoeia
  5. 'The world is charged with the grandeur of God, / It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; / It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil / Crushed.' - What imagery has Gerard Manley Hopkins used in his poem, 'God's Grandeur'?
    Would you have imagined that a writer could use five different types of imagery in only 29 words?
  6. 'Ooze' and 'crushed' are examples of ...
    The two words are nearly alliterative, but not quite ('z' and 'sh')
  7. 'The Palace Hotel at Fort Romper was painted a light blue, a shade that is on the legs of a kind of heron, causing the bird to declare its position against any background. The Palace Hotel, then, was always screaming and howling in a way that made the dazzling winter landscape of Nebraska seem only a grey swampish hush.' - What sensory imagery does this passage from Stephen Crane's short story, 'The Blue Hotel', use?
    This passage allows you to visualise the contrast between the hotel and its drab surroundings.  It also describes the brash colours as a scream and a howl which hushes the landscape - the visual is reinforced with auditory imagery
  8. The passage above contains further examples of the use of imagery. What are they?
    The colours of the hotel 'scream' and 'howl' (personification), the 's' and 'sh' sounds are repeated in the last line (internal alliteration), and 'hush' is an example of onomatopoeia
  9. 'The floor boards have a sour breath / Cadaver lips apart, / The ribbed planks, furred with dust / Smell like a beast in the zoo.' - What imagery has Louis Grudin used in his poem, 'Dust on Spring Street'?
  10. The use of the phrases 'sour breath', 'cadaver lips', 'ribbed' and 'furred' are examples of ...

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