Literal Imagery
Literal means straight forward or factual. It is the
dictionary meaning of the word.
Denotation: the explicit or direct meaning or set of
meanings of a word or expression, as distinguished
from the ideas or meanings associated with it or
suggested by it.
Eg., A house is a building in which people live.
When someone says, “I mean that literally”, they mean
“exactly”, just the facts.
Allusion: A reference to someone or something that is
known from history, literature, religion, politics, sports,
science, or some other branch of culture.
Sojourner Truth ~ “Ain’t I a Woman?”
That man over there say
a woman needs to be helped into carriages
and lifted over ditches
and to have the best place everywhere.
Nobody ever helped me into carriages
or over mud puddles
or gives me a best place.
And ain't I a woman?
Look at me
Look at my arm!
I have plowed and planted
and gathered into barns
and no man could head me…
And ain't I a woman?
I could work as much
and eat as much as a man —
when I could get to it —
and bear the lash as well
and ain't I a woman?
I have born 13 children
and seen most all sold into slavery
and when I cried out a mother's grief
none but Jesus heard me...
And ain't I a woman?
That little man in black there say
a woman can't have as much rights as a man
cause Christ wasn't a woman
Where did your Christ come from?
From God and a woman!
Man had nothing to do with him!
If the first woman God ever made
was strong enough to turn the world
upside down, all alone
together women ought to be able to turn it
rightside up again.
“Ain’t I a Woman” Questions
1 - Who is the “man” to which the author refers?
6 - What is the author alluding to: “Or over mud
10 - What does Sojourner mean when she writes, “I
have plowed and planted”?
12 - Explain the line, “And no man could head me”?
24 - Who is the “little man in black?”
28-29 - To what famous moment is Sojourner
30 - 32 - To what other famous moments is
Sojourner alluding?
33-34 - What “call to action” is Sojourner putting
Charles Bukowski
“The Man with the Beautiful Eyes”
Handout: Read together
Figurative Imagery
Figurative Language is deliberate exaggeration; when a
speaker says something that they do not literally mean.
Traditionally, figurative language falls into four specific
1. Hyperbole: A very strong exaggeration
Eg: He is stronger than ten giants
2. Simile: A comparison between two objects using the
words “like” or “as”
Eg: She sings like a nightingale
3. Metaphor: A comparison between two objects (without
“like” or “as”)
Eg. Helen is an angel
4. Personification: Gives an inhuman thing human qualities
Eg. The sunrise was jealous of her loveliness
Connotation: an idea or feeling that a word invokes in
addition to its literal or primary meaning
Eg., House: family, warmth, love, protection, safety.
Figurative language encourages us to use our imagination.
I’m like a farmer, plantin’ words, people are seeds.
My truth is the soil; help you grow like trees.
Question: What is Nas implying here?
Hyperbole: Overstatement for effect, exaggeration
“I pulled up with a million trucks - looking, smellin’,
feelin’ like a million bucks” (Ludacris)
People often use exaggeration to make their point
strong and clear. In the example above, he did not
literally have a million bucks, he is boasting about his
status and how good he feels.
We commonly use hyperbole:
• I nearly died laughing
• I knocked on the door a million times
• I’m dying of starvation
Classic Hyperbole:
I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life!
(Elizabeth Browning)
This little world of mine has lost its light
(Dorothy Parker)
A robin redbreast is a cage/ Sets all heaven in a rage.
(William Blake)
1. Does she LITERALLY love with her breath, smiles and tears?
2. Has the world LITERALLY lost its light?
3. Is ALL of heaven LITERALLY in a rage?
Hip-Hop Hyperbole :)
A lot of MCs today really know how to please, but I gave
birth to most of them MCs.
(Roxanne Shante)
My mom’s words echo in my head and if I let go I’m dead.
I can roast an MC like a barbecue.
(Big Daddy Kane)
Can any of this LITERALLY happen? Let’s be real…
Imagery: The use of language to evoke a picture or a concrete sensation of a
person, a thing, a place or an experience.
“Harlem: A Dream Deferred” ~ by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun
Or fester like a sore And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Questions about “A Dream Deferred”
1. What is the theme of this poem? Another way of thinking about theme is
questioning the author’s intention.
2. Identify how Hughes uses imagery for all five senses in his poem.
3. How does the sum total of all the imagery add up to answering the
question put forth by the speaker in the line, “what happens to a dream
4. What is the unspoken message Hughes is telling the reader about going
after their own dreams?
Imagery Continued…
Juicy ~ by Notorious B.I.G.
It was all a dream
I used to read Word Up magazine
Salt'n'Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine
Hangin' pictures on my wall
Every Saturday Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl
Now honies play me close like butter played toast
From the Mississippi down to the east coast
Sold out seats to hear Biggie Smalls speak
Livin' life without fear
Puttin' 5 karats in my baby girl's ear
Lunches, brunches, interviews by the pool
Considered a fool 'cause I dropped out of high school
Stereotypes of a black male misunderstood
And it's still all good
We used to fuss when the landlord dissed us
No heat, wonder why Christmas missed us
Birthdays was the worst days
Now we sip champagne when we thirst-ay
Uh, damn right I like the life I live
'Cause I went from negative to positive
And it's all good…
“Juicy” Questions:
1. What are the commonalities between Langston Hughes’
“A Dream Deferred” and Biggie’s “Juicy”?
2. 16 - Why are birthdays the worse days? Why do you
think he felt this way?
3. What images does he use to evoke images of the
poverty endured prior to achieving Hip-Hop fame?
4. What images does he use to evoke images of the
rewards of wealth and Hip-Hop fame in the reader’s mind?
Writing Exercise: Imagery
1. Create a column for each of your five senses:
2. I have given you each a piece of paper with an object on it. Write
down your perceptions of the object by filling in the blanks for
your five senses. Be vivid, colourful, abstract, literal etc.
3. Write an additional line of description adding the sixth
component of emotion. How do you feel about the object? Does it
remind you of something (like a relative, a special time, childhood)?
4. Use the material above to write a poem about your object.
Make it as long or short as you wish. Use rhyme, free verse,
personification, etc but be sure to use ALL the material above.
5. Give your poem a title
Object poem (Light Bulb)
“Just Give Me the Light”
Smooth is my bulb
Tastes hot like electricity
Smells like smokey possibility
Ruler of Light
Gives my home sight
Sound like a buzz
we shut off every night
Show the subject by creating an ‘image’ -- not a
description, but a unique way of seeing this thing or
In a station of the Metro
Ezra Pound
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
Imagery Examples:
The Calm
John Gould Fletcher
At noon I shall see waves flashing,
White power of spray.
The steamers, stately,
Kick up white puffs of spray behind them.
The boiling wake
Merges in the blue-black mirror of the sea
The City
Langston Hughes
In the morning the city
Spreads its wings
Making a song
In stone that sings.
In the evening the city
Goes to bed
Hanging lights
Above its head.
Literal- a person, place, event
Concrete- free of ideas, symbols, metaphors
Compressed- free of superfluous wording
- something is at stake
Urgent - it needs to be said!
He loved three things alone by
Anna Akhmatova
He loved three things alone:
White peacocks, evensong,
Old maps of America.
He hated children crying,
And raspberry jam with his tea,
And womanish hysteria
. . . And he had married me.
Literal Examples
Auto Mirror ~ Adam Zagajewski
In the rear-view mirror suddenly
I saw the bulk of the Beauvais Cathedral;
great things dwell in small ones
for a moment.
The Birds Have Vanished
Li Po
The birds have vanished into the sky,
and now the last cloud drains away
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.
Related documents