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Imagery Analysis Essay

Imagery in My Papa’s Waltz Essay

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Imagery in My Papa’s Waltz

Donald Hall describes the use of imagery in poetry as a device that "makes us more sensitive to [literature], as if we acquired eyes that could see through things"(p 530). Imagery creates vivid details that deal with one's sense of sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste. These details can be seen in Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz" because the senses of touch, sight, sound, and smell appeal to the reader in order to better explain the feelings of each character in the poem. Roethke's use of imagery creates a negative picture that is painted by the son of an abusive father.

The poem "My Papa's Waltz" uses imagery by especially appealing to the sense of touch. The sense of touch also helps the reader…show more content…

Another abusive incident which appeals to the sense of touch occurs in the fourth stanza. The father "beat time on [the son's] head" with a "palm caked hand of dirt" (13-14). These lines create a picture of the father as a working man who takes aggression out on his son. Appealing to the sense of touch better illustrates the physical pain the son endures. The sense of touch used in the third and fourth stanza's help to prove that the poem has a negative and abusive theme.

The sense of light also aids in the use of imagery. Visualizing the scene is important because the reader can understand the entire incident in the poem. The sense of sight is first introduced with the idea of the "waltz". The "waltz", however, symbolizes the battle between the father and son and is used as a reference throughout the poem. The first reference is in the title, "My Papa's Waltz". This reference continues throughout the poem by continually referring to the "waltz". The first stanza discusses the difficulty in waltzing when the son points out "waltzing was not easy" (4). This line paints a picture for the reader of a son dealing with the hardship of having an abusive father. The last stanza ends with a final reference to the "waltz". The father "waltzed me off to bed" which implies the son received another beating before bedtime (15). The symbolic meaning of the "waltz" enriches the abusive theme by

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When writing descriptive poetry it becomes increasingly necessary to review exactly what imagery is and its innate relevance to poetry as an art form.

Imagery Is Description

Have you ever been in a situation where an instructor mentioned the catch phrase, “Be as descriptive as possible?” In short, imagery can best be defined as descriptive language.

If you take that definition one step further and apply it to the human senses, then the definition becomes descriptive language that has the ability of appealing to the five senses. Although, that does not necessarily mean that imagery applies to all five senses collectively.

Most often used in poetry, imagery can be used in just about any form of writing. Whether fiction or nonfiction, imagery is what provides the color, or what a reader can see in his or her mind’s eye about a particular written work. Contemporary examples of imagery in action include stories in the newspaper, crime scene reports and of course, works of fiction.

Imagery is also used in songs, movies, television shows and everyday reports. It is the way in which the writer or author of a particular work conveys texture and vividness to the reader. It is also the way in which the writer shows the reader the intended image of the work, instead of telling them.

Imagery Surrounds You

If you are a fan of music, then imagery surrounds you in songs. Many people agree that songs are but poetry set to music.

If you consider this statement to be true, then it could be said that the verses in your favorite song (that may be stuck in your head) are a good place to start when you are looking for samples of imagery in everyday works.  Whether you like hip-hop, pop, rock and roll, country or soul, music is as good a place as ever to find good samples of imagery.

Take a look at the following example and see if you can better understand its use of imagery:

On a starry winter night in Portugal
Where the ocean kissed the southern shore
There a dream I never thought would come to pass
Came and went like time spent through an hourglass
-Teena Marie, “Portuguese Love”

The sample above was taken from soul songstress of the 1980s, Teena Marie’s hit love song. Did you notice how descriptive the lyrics are? In this sample alone, the imagery is increasingly apparent to the reader. Even though this is a portion of the lyrics from a song, if you read it, you can almost feel the sand of the beach beneath your feet.

Here is another example of imagery in music:

She wears a long fur coat of mink
Even in the summertime
Everybody knows from the coy little wink
The girl's got a lot on her mind
She's got big thoughts, big dreams
And a big brown Mercedes sedan
What I think this girl, she really wants
Is to be in love with a man
-Sheila E., “Glamorous Life”

In this illustration, the imagery gains momentum with each line. It starts out slow, yet always building momentum through its vivid description of the mystery girl in the “long fur coat of mink.”

Now consider a famous poem that contains beautiful imagery, "Daffodils" by William Wordsworth. As you read through the poem, he paints a wonderful picture of daffodils such that you can almost picture them in the breeze:

A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way

Imagery in a Single Sentence

While poems and songs can paint a vivid picture since they are longer mediums, imagery can be found in just a single sentence as well. Consider the following descriptive sentences:

  • He fumed and charged like an angry bull.
  • He fell down like an old tree falling down in a storm.
  • He felt like the flowers were waving him a hello.
  • The eerie silence was shattered by her scream.
  • He could hear his world crashing down when he heard the news about her.
  • The F-16 swooped down like an eagle after its prey.
  • The word spread like leaves in a storm.
  • The lake was left shivering by the touch of morning wind.
  • Her face blossomed when she caught a glance of him.
  • He could never escape from the iron grip of desire.
  • He could hear the footsteps of doom nearing.
  • She was like a breath of fresh air infusing life back into him.
  • The pot was a red as a tongue after eating a cherry flavored ring pop.
  • Though I was on the sheer face of a mountain, the feeling of swinging through the air was euphoric, almost like flying without wings.
  • Her blue eyes were as bright as the Sun, blue as the sky, but soft as silk.
  • The music coursed through us, shaking our bodies as if it came from within us.
  • The giant tree was ablaze with the orange, red, and yellow leaves that were beginning to make their descent to the ground.

Paint a Picture

If you ever find yourself wondering where you can find good imagery examples, you can turn on some music or pull out a book or magazine, and you will find many examples.

Do you have a good example to share? Add your example here.

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When writing descriptive poetry it becomes increasingly necessary to review exactly what imagery is and its innate relevance to poetry as an art form.

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