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Opal (1919)

You are ice and fire,

The touch of you burns my hands like snow

You are cold and flame.

You are the crimson of amaryllis,

The silver of moon-touched magnolias.

When I am with you,

My heart is a frozen pond

Gleaming with agitated torches.

Amy Lowell is the poet of the external world, her visual effects are hard and clear. Opal is white or almost clear precious stone in which changes of colour are seen. Opal is a repetitive pairing of clashing sensory images (touches, colours). Amy Lowell delights in kaleidoscopic glitter of color. The burning image suggests sensuality and sexuality.

Prosaic works can also present vivid images. Roald Dahl in The Sound Machine (1949) describes unusual sounds the plants in pain produce:

The little needle crept slowly across the dial, and suddenly he heard a shriek, a frightful piercing shriek, and he jumped and dropped his hands, catching hold of the edge of the table. He stared around him as if expecting to see the person who had shrieked. There was no one in sight except the woman in the garden next door, and it was certainly not she. She was bending down, cutting yellow roses and putting them in her basket.

Again it came – a throatless, inhuman shriek, sharp and short, very clear and cold. The note itself possessed a minor, metallic quality that he had never heard before. Klausner looked around him, searching instinctively for the source of the noise. The woman next door was the only living thing in sight. He saw her reach down, take a rose stem in the fingers of one hand and snip the stem with pair of scissors. Again he heard the scream.”

In humorous story Taste (1951) by R. Dahl there are some brilliant passages describing the peculiar taste of wine: “Now – from which commune in Mėdoc does it come? That also by elimination, should not be too difficult to decide. Margaux? No. It cannot be Margaux. It has not the violent bouquet of a Margaux. Pauillac? It cannot be Pauillac, either. It is too tender, too gentle and wistful for a Pauillac. The wine of Pauillac has a character that is almost imperious in its taste. And also, to me, a Pauillac contains just a little pitch, a curious, dusty, pithy flavour that the grape acquires from the soil of the district. No, no. This – this is a very gentle wine, demure and bashful in the first taste, emerging shyly but quite graciously in the second. A little arch, perhaps, in the second taste, and a little naughty also, teasing the tongue with a trace, just a trace, of tannin. Then, in the aftertaste, delightful – consoling and feminine, with a certain blithely generous quality that one associates only with wines of thecommune of St Julien. Unmistakably this is St Julien.”

McLin devides images into literal and figurative ones: literal images suggest actual physical qualities of the object, while figurative images are built on metaphor, metonymy or simile.

Let’s compare the examples of sensory images and figurative ones. David Lodge in Therapy(1995) expresses the feeling of acute physical pain:“…I felt it: a sharp, piercing pain, like a red-hot needle thrust into the inside of the right knee and then withdrawn, leaving a quickly fading afterburn”. R. Bradbury in Dandelion Wine recreates specific odour: “…there were some days compounded completely of odor, nothing but the world blowing in one nostril and out the other. And some days, he went on, were days of hearing every trump and trill of the universe. Some days were good for tasting and some for touching. And some days were good for all the senses at once. This day now, he nodded, smelled as if a great and nameless orchard had grown up overnight beyond the hills to fill the entire visible land with its warm freshness. The air felt like rain, but there were no clouds. Momentarily, a stranger might laugh off in the woods, but there was silence . . . “

As to figurative image we may turn to the extract fromR. Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine (1957): The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered. <…> Since this was going to be a summer of unguessed wonders, he wanted it all salvaged and labeled so that any time he wished, he might tiptoe down in this dank twilight and reach up his fingertips.

And there, row upon row, with the soft gleam of flowers opened at morning, with the light of this June sun glowing through a faint skin of dust, would stand the dandelion wine. Peer through it at the wintry day-the snow melted to grass, the trees were reinhabitated with bird, leaf, and blossoms like a continent of butterflies breathing on the wind. And peering through, color sky from iron to blue”.

Collectively, the images used by a writer are called imagery. The way to enable readers to feel an emotion is to present them with images that evoke that feeling. One way to create a powerful experience for a reader is to use sensory language, or imagery.

The other kind is images as figures of speech. These figures of speech extend the imaginative range, the complexity and comprehensibility of the subject. They can be very brief, a word or two, a glistening fragment of insight, a chance connection sparked into a blaze (warming or destroying) of understanding; or they can be extended analogies, such as Donne's 'conceits' or Milton's epic similes.Figurative language evokes associations that are beyond the literal meaning of the words. Some specific types of figurative language aresimile, metaphor, personification, symbolism, hyperbole, understatement, synesthesia, etc. Figures of speech are also called stylistic devices.Stylisticdeviceis a peculiar arrangement of language units (neutral or marked) according to a well-known abstract pattern designed to achieve the effect sought. The interrelation of the language units can be of different kinds:

  1. the interplay of meanings: a) one is fixed, another – contextual (metaphor, metonymy, etc.), b) two well-known meanings are played upon (zeugma, pun), c) logical and emotive meanings (epithet, oxymoron), d) logical and nominal meaning (antonomasia);

  2. the interrelation of one-level units (alliteration, assonance, parallelism);

  3. co-occurrence of units with stylistically opposite connotations (irony).

Language units can be stylistically marked or coloured, along with their denotative meaning they possess connotations. Such units are called expressive means.

Phoneticexpressive means include pitch, melody, stresses, tones.

Morphologicalexpressive means show grammatical meaning which display a kind of emphasis (marked forms of Imperative Mood and the Present and Past Tenses –Docome.Idolikeit.).

Lexicalexpressive means include stylistically coloured words (poetic, archaic, bookish, slang, jargon, vulgar, etc.). These words usually stand in opposition to their neutral synonym. For example,

money– neutral

pelf – bookish derogative

ducat– historical

oof, bread– slang

cly, cole– jargon

dough, rhino– colloquial

Syntacticexpressive means are sentence patterns, bearing additional logical and expressive information that contributes to pragmatic efficiency of the utterance. For example,

Eliza crossed her hands solemnly. (neutral)

Solemnly Eliza crossed her hands.

Eliza, she crossed her hands.

Eliza crossed her hands, she did.

It was Eliza who crossed her hands solemnly.

So, images are to be decoded by the reader. To decode them, the following aspects should be taken into consideration: a) the dictionary meaning of a word, b) the contextual meaning, c) the connotation, d) the associations aroused by the image.


How would you sum up the semantic fields in the extract? What words, phrases, images, or figures of speech are to be repeated? Do any objects or events have symbolic value? What kind of language is used? Is the language abstract or concrete, of emotions or of reason, of control or of openness? How much the language is connotative? What are the connotations of the language? What areas of experience, feeling, and meaning are evoked? How forceful is the language (see also imagery and sentence structure)? What aspects of feeling are supported or created by the sound of the language, by the vowel and consonant sounds (soft, hard long or short), by how the words go together (smoothly, eliding or separated)? What sort of metaphors, similes and analogies does the writer use, and what does that tell you about their outlook and sensibility? Are there recurring images? What ideas or feelings are aroused by them; what people or events are brought to mind by them? What devices help the author keep the reader in the state of expectation? How is emotional appeal achieved? Indicate the stylistic devices used to depict the character and the purposes of their use.

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