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Effectiveness of Imagery and Comparative Devices

What is meant by effectiveness?

Effect n. a change which is a result of an action or cause; the extent to which something succeeds;

(v) to bring about a result

Effective adj. producing an intended result

Effectiveness n. the quality of being able to bring about an intended result.
Effectively adv. being able to bring about a desired result
In other words, effectiveness, in literature, suggests that each piece of literary work is a work of art
through which the writer wishes to communicate something. He wishes to have an impact on us and hence, use
specific techniques to get our attention. Therefore, his use of rhyme, rhythm, mood, tone, diction, plot, point of
view et cetera, are all done for a specific purpose. It is up to us as readers, listeners and viewers to find out what
it is and we have the freedom to comment on how well it was done.
Questions to ask in relation to effectiveness:

How does this device or element work?

How does this device or element make me feel?
What thoughts come to mind as I listen to the words of this poem/as listen to the rhythm?
What tone and/or mood is created from these choice of words?
How does this tone or mood help to enhance the theme?
How does the rhythm enhance the theme?
Do these words help to create an image in my mind? If so, what kind of image is it and what
memories are associated with it? How do these memories help me to relate to what the writer is

What is the writers intention and does his use of certain techniques/devices/elements help him to
achieve these intentions? If so, in what way (i.e. how) and to what extent
Hence, we have to understand what his intention is.
The writers intention is anything he wishes to achieve. He can wish to:

describe or make vivid or clear

highlight or emphasize
expound on or to explain
express his feelings about a matter
amuse or create humour
state or inform
argue or discuss
mock or poke fun at

Writers intentions can vary. Regardless of the intention, we should always remember that when speaking of the
writers intention, we should always use verbs to express what we believe he wishes to do.

What is meant by significance?

Significance This refers to the importance of something. When asked about the significance of a characters
action, an event, an expression, the title or a device/technique, we are supposed to speak of how it contributes
meaning to the creative piece on a whole. Ask yourself: How does it illuminate the theme? How does it
enhance the writers message?
What is meant by relevance?
Relevance This refers to how closely connected or appropriate something is to the current matter. Therefore,
when asked about the relevance of an action/event, an expression, the title or a device/technique, we are
supposed to explain how appropriate it is to what the writer is trying to communicate.

Imagery is the vivid description of any person, object, place or experience. As a literary device,
imagery is highly dependent on the poets diction: it is created through the use of describing words such as
adjectives and adverbs and even the use of prepositions (to indicate position and relation); but this device also
employs the use of figures of speech such as simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole and sound devices
such as onomatopoeia. Therefore, in examining this device, one should also look at how figures of speech are
used to enhance images. Imagery appeals to any or all of the readers senses (not just sight, as is often thought)
and is intended to create a certain mood. The types of images are:

visual (sight)
auditory (hearing)
gustatory (taste)
olfactory (smell)
tactile/kinesthetic (feeling or touch/movement)

Writers, especially poets, rely heavily on imagery to create a setting, tone mood and develop a theme.
Imagery is very important because it tells us who the persona/characters are, gives information about the setting
and context of the work and tells the writers attitude to the subject matter of the work. Imagery is created
through the use of adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, vivid verbs, concrete nouns, and the use of figures of
speech such as personification, metaphor, simile and hyperbole, and the use of sound devices (such as
alliteration, assonance and onomatopoeia). Therefore, diction is key to the development of this device of style.
One must pay close attention to each word used to create and image. One must examine the types of words
chosen and their denotative and connotative meaning. The connotative meaning has much to do with the
development of the tone and mood of the speaker, and the attitude of the poet. Hence, images suggest many
things. They have greater meanings; they are often symbolic.
How to write about the effectiveness of Imagery
Imagery is often intended to evoke an emotional response in the reader which is usually appropriate to
the subject matter the writer is dealing with. It is expected to stir up emotions which are connected to
memories. These memories are what the writer taps into by describing images using terms with which the
reader is familiar.
Questions to ask when studying imagery and its effectiveness:
First think carefully about the words:

As you read try to attend to the following points:

How the words combine to create meanings
How they create pictures in your mind
How they work upon your feelings
How they are organized to give the poem a shape
In other words, be aware of those features of the poem that advertise themselves to you in your reading.
When examining your reaction to a poem ask yourself:
How exactly am I reacting?
Can I identify the thoughts and feelings these words arouse in me?
Is this poem asking me to think about things in new and different ways?
What kind of pleasure is the poem giving me?
These only help you to think about the words in the poem. After this, when writing ask yourself the following
questions about the images in the poem:

What words are used to create these images and what are the functions of these words?
What type of image is created here/which of my sense does this appeal to?
Why would the writer choose to appeal to these senses?
What do the words used to describe the person/place/thing mean? What do they suggest?
What memories do these images arouse in my mind? What feelings?
How can I describe these images? (i.e. Are they horrific/disturbing, disgusting, chaotic,

soothing/relaxing/peaceful, inviting)
How are these feelings and memories connected to the subject matter of the poem?
Can I detect the personas tone in the images chosen? Do the images help to create a particular
mood? Is this tone or mood appropriate to the theme?
What does these images tell me about the writers attitude towards the subject matter or issues
dealt with in the poem?
What seems to be the writers intention?
How effective are these words/images in enhancing his message? Did he achieve his intention
through them?
One may not attempt to answer all these questions in trying to write about the effectiveness of imagery in the
poems but one should try to answer as many as possible, especially as it relates to the appropriateness/relevance
and effectiveness of the images and the writers intention.

Comparative Devices
Comparative devices seek to show the similarities between two things. Not many are to be taken literal which is
why they are called figures of speech. Examples of comparative devices are: metaphor, simile, personification.
Personification is a type of metaphor as it, like other metaphors, is a comparison in which one thing becomes
another; the difference is that with personification, non-human objects are compared to humans in such a
manner that they seem to take on human characteristics (hence the root word personify which is to make
human); other metaphors do not include this humanizing element.

Commenting on the effectiveness of comparative devices

To comment on the effectiveness of comparative devices, one must:
1. State the two things that are compared, naming the type of comparison while doing so.
2. Say what the subject of the comparison (the thing being spoken of) has in common with the object it is
compared to. Explain what the device means, focusing on the literal and figurative meaning.
3. Explain how it helps to develop tone or mood in the poem.
4. Explain how this similarity helps the writer achieve his intention and to what extent.

Therefore, identifying the device and saying what it means is not enough. Your response on the effectiveness
must be thorough, therefore think carefully before responding so you can give a substantial response.
For example:
I was lost in a sea of nameless faces.
A model comment on the effectiveness of this device would be:
(1)The device above is an example of a metaphor. This is seen in the
expression a sea of nameless faces. Here the writer compares the many faces
which he does not recognize to a sea. It is a metaphor in that the many
unrecognizable faces have become a sea to him. (2) The similarity between a sea
and these many faces is that the sea is vast and the depths are unknown, and
water being such a powerful, intimidating force threatens to drown. Also, the sea,
being salt water, is not a dependable source if one is stranded out in the blue and
dying of thirst. The many faces are just like this they are so great in number that
they are like the sea intimidating and threatening for the speaker. He can find no
one to trust. (3) It helps to develop a tone of fright/panic/unease seen in the
image of being lost at sea with very little or no hope of rescue. (4) It is the writers
intention to let us understand the discomfort which the speaker feels as he stands
among so great a number of unknown people; therefore, the metaphor is
completely effective is communicating this anxiety, which is intense.
If you write a response similar in depth as the one above, you are sure to score full marks.