Writers use imagery to help the audience experience literature rather than just read it. In creating imagery, writers use words intended to stimulate the senses; a reader needs to perceive what he is reading before he can understand it. Creating imagery that appeals to the senses is essential in placing the reader into the time and place of the literature and uniting the reader with the emotions being conveyed at that moment.
Poet May Swenson invites readers to see the world reflected in a pond in her poem, "Water Picture." She describes her view as "doubled" when looking at the scenes around her. Swenson writes, "The arched stone bridge is an eye, with underlid in the water." The poet uses metaphor, a literary device that compares two things, and personification, which gives a human feature to an inanimate object, to convey the image.
Olfactory imagery appeals to the reader's sense of smell. James Wilde, a foreign correspondent and 32-year veteran journalist for Time Magazine, used olfactory imagery to describe his experience reporting on the Vietnam conflict. Wilde said, "The stench of death massaged my skin; it didn't wash off for years." Wilde's terse statement captures, in just a few words, his continuous encounters with dead and dying soldiers and how, even years later, the memory of the smell stayed with him.
F. Scott Fitzgerald used many types of literary imagery to conjure up the essence of 1920s upper-class society. In his novel "The Great Gatsby," Fitzgerald uses auditory imagery to describe the voice of Daisy Buchanan. Fitzgerald writes, "Her voice is full of money ... that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbal's song of it...." At once, the reader can hear the musicality of Daisy's voice and how it reflected her wealth and status.
The novel "Cold Mountain" by Charles Frazier is the story of a wounded Civil War soldier's long journey on foot from Virginia to his home in the mountains of North Carolina. His happiness at reaching the cooler altitude of the mountain country is conveyed through tactile imagery. Frazier writes, "there was growing joy in Inman's heart. He was nearing home; he could feel it in the touch of thin air on skin...."
Imagery conveying the sense of taste is known as gustatory imagery. The poem "Blueberries" by Robert Frost relates the author's delight in finding wild blueberries growing on a pasture wall. Noting pine trees were burned the year before to clear the pasture, Frost suggests the blueberry bushes flourished due to growing in tree ash and, as a result, harbor a smoky essence: "It must be on charcoal they fatten their fruit. I taste in them sometimes the flavour of soot...."