Explain the imagery in the poem "Desert Places" by Robert Frost.

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Imagery is the use of words to convey sensory experience. It can be visual (describing something one can see), auditory (describing something one can hear), tactile (describing something one can touch), olfactory (describing something one can smell), or gustatory (describing something one can taste). The imagery used in this poem...

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Imagery is the use of words to convey sensory experience. It can be visual (describing something one can see), auditory (describing something one can hear), tactile (describing something one can touch), olfactory (describing something one can smell), or gustatory (describing something one can taste). The imagery used in this poem is predominantly visual imagery. When the speaker of the poem describes

. . . the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last

he employs visual imagery. We can imagine the field almost completely made smooth-looking by the blanket of white snow, while, here and there, the tops of a few plants are still visible poking through that smooth blanket. Later, the speaker describes

A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

This visual image describes the way that same snow looks at night, when any such minor imperfections in the whiteness become invisible in the dark. The smooth whiteness, then, seems even "blanker" than it does during the daytime.

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This is an excellent poem in which the speaker explores the way that even the most familiar of surroundings can become like "desert places" where he is overwhelmed with loneliness and questions his own significance as a human being.

When analysing imagery, it is important to remember that imagery is defined as pictures that are painted with words that create an image in our mind of what the author is describing. Often imagery will appeal to the five senses to make that picture more vibrant.

Thus it is that this poem, which is, after all, about emotional desolation, creates powerful images of the snow and the way that it erases characteristics and creates a bleak landscape. Notice how the speaker describes what he sees:

A blanker whiteness of benighted snow

With no expression, nothing to express.

Snow is personified as a human face, but a face which has "no expression" and "nothing to express." The whiteness of the snow is "blank" and is shown to erase or cover up or "smother" all familiar features. This creates an intense feeling of "loneliness," which is reinforced through the repetition of this word in stanzas two and three. All of these examples combine to create a very bleak picture indeed of emotional desolation and the desert places that surround us even when we know where we are.

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