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Imagery – in literature. The power of words to transform, transfigure, inspire. The Handmaid’s Tale. “Time has not stood still. It has washed over me, washed me away, as if I’m nothing more than a woman of sand, left by a careless child too near the water.”

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imagery in literature

Imagery – in literature

The power of words to transform, transfigure, inspire

the handmaid s tale
The Handmaid’s Tale

“Time has not stood still. It has washed over me, washed me away, as if I’m nothing more than a woman of sand, left by a careless child too near the water.”

— The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

sherlock holmes the three gables
Sherlock Holmes – The Three Gables

“She entered with ungainly struggle like some huge awkward chicken, torn, squawking, out of its coop.”

— The Adventure of the Three Gables, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

riders of the purple sage
Riders of the purple sage

“Her father had inherited that temper; and at times, like antelope fleeing before fire on the slope, his people fled from his red rages.”

— Riders of the Purple Sage, by Zane Grey

heart of darkness lord jim
Heart of Darkness & Lord Jim

“Imagine him here—the very end of the world, a sea the color of lead, a sky the color of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina—and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like.”

- Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

“I would have given anything for the power to soothe her frail soul, tormenting itself in its invincible ignorance like a small bird beating about the cruel wires of a cage.”

— Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad

the go between
The Go-Between

“I should have an answer ready. 'Well, it was you who let me down, and I will tell you how. You flew too near to the sun, and you were scorched. This cindery creature is what you made me.'

“The conversation of the gods! - I didn't resent or feel aggrieved because I couldn't understand it. I was the smallest of the planets, and if I carried messages between them and I couldn't always understand, that was in order too: they were something in a foreign language - star-talk.”

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

- L. P. Hartley – The Go-Between

the great gatsby
The Great Gatsby

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . And then one day …

And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby

  • “Analysis” sheet – higher, faster, stronger!



  • Take one of the images quoted, and extend the simile or metaphor.
  • Begin a paragraph of writing, in which you create a metaphor and use it throughout, beginning:

“A student is … ”

3. Find an example of imagery used in a novel, short-story, play or magazine that you like. Present it, and analyse how it ‘works’ for you.