Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes


see also symbol

infrared image of a young star

Most images in literature are words or signs (or groups) that stimulate a picture or some other sensory impression that usually has symbolic meaning.

Oxford English Dictionary Image 1. An artificial imitation or representation of something

3.a. A visual representation or counterpart of an object or scene, formed through the interaction of rays of light with a mirror, lens, etc., usually by reflection or refraction

c. A physical or digital representation of something, originally captured using a camera from visible light, and typically reproduced on paper, displayed on a screen, or stored as a computer file. More generally: any picture or graphic (regardless of origin) displayed on a computer monitor, television, etc., or reproduced in printed form

5.a. A mental representation of something (esp. a visible object) created not by direct perception but by memory or imagination; a mental picture or impression; an idea, conception. Also: (with modifying adjective) a mental representation due to any of the senses (not only sight) or to organic sensations.

6.a. A representation of something to the mind by speech or writing; a vivid or graphic description

b. A simile, metaphor, or other figure of speech that suggests a picture to the mind.


For literature, an image is a word or words that create a sensory impression, most often visual but also sound, touch, taste, and smell (or combinations).


Most images are visual, but images may appeal to sight, sound, smell, taste, touch.

Her sandpaper smile . . . .

Apples rumbled and smacked to the floor.

His devious behavior left a whiff of poison in the room.


images make you feel 

honest, fresh feeling rooted in familiar experience

"as strange and familiar as a dream"

Maybe there's no such thing as an image that is not a symbol?