It is said that an image creates a mental picture in the reader or a listener whereas a symbol represents something but in literature , not only images but also symbols create mental pictures...

It is said that an image creates a mental picture in the reader or a listener whereas a symbol represents something but in literature , not only images but also symbols create mental pictures because when the terms that are used as the means of imagery and symbolism strike a reader's mind , he/she definitely forms a mental picture .  When we say " The roaring currents of suffering badly tore the pages of my life " , the readers immediately draw the  mental pictures of visible currents of a flooded river and understand how challenging the sufferings were . Here the term " currents " creates a confusion as to whether it is a symbol or an image or none . Then what is the exact borderline  of differentiation between these two concepts ? 

Expert Answers
obrienk4 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great question! First of all, it's important to understand that there are different types of imagery. There is visual imagery, which is what you are talking about, and then there is auditory (hearing), gustatory (taste), olfactory (smell), tactile (touch), and kinesthetic (movement) imagery. So each of these types of imagery creates some sort of feeling or sensation for the reader. For example, if a writer talks about homemade chocolate chip cookies that just came out of the oven, you can probably recall this smell and your mouth might start watering. These would be examples of olfactory and gustatory imagery. In addition, this might create visual imagery for you-you might imagine what your mother's cookies looked like when you were a child.

Visual imagery is unique to each reader. We all "see" in our mind's eye different images and pictures of what the author is describing, according to the author's description. The author might describe a small, one room cottage with cream-colored walls and a dirt floor, but if you asked 2 different readers to draw a picture of what they thought that looked like, the pictures would undoubtedly have some differences.

While a symbol can be an example of visual imagery, it does not have to be. The definition of a symbol, according to literary-devices.com, is a "literary device that contains several layers of meaning, often concealed at first sight, and is representative of several other aspects, concepts or traits than those that are visible in the literal translation alone. A symbol is using an object or action that means something more than its literal meaning." A symbol is also repeated throughout a literary work to signify something or create meaning. An example of a visual symbol is the green light and the color green that appear throughout The Great Gatsby, symbolizing hopes and dreams, and also money. Color, of course, is visual, but a symbol has deeper meaning, it does not merely provide an image.