|Imagery and Figuration|
When using these tools in analyzing poetry, pay attention to their specific effects in the poem, how they contribute to the poem's meaning. Always look for the hidden relation or significance that makes the figurative language meaningful and explain any patterns of figuration that can be found in the poem.
Image: a word or phrase that appeals directly to one or more of the senses; an image means only what it is; it is not figurative.
Figuration: language used indirectly, suggesting something beyond its strict signified
A. Simile and Metaphor: a simile is an expressed comparison (using like or as) between things that are essentially unlike (e.g., Mary is like a rose); a metaphor is an implied comparison between things that are essentially unlike (e.g. John is a lion). A metaphor means something other than what it is.
B. Metonymy: use of a closely related item, or an attribute of the item, to substitute for the item intended in the poem (e.g., grave for death; crown for king)
C. Synechdoche: use of a part for the whole (e.g., "sail" for ship)
D. Personification: giving the characteristics of a human being to something that is not a human being; e.g., Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me" (Emily Dickinson)
E. Symbol: an image (often part of a system of images and figures) that carries a whole range of other meanings. A symbol means what it is and also something more; it is present in the poem as itself but also suggests additional meanings. A symbol is interesting in itself, cannot be separated from what it stands for, and cannot be completely paraphrased or restated; e.g., the sea in Chopins The Awakening.Barbara F. McManus