What is the difference between imagery and symbolism?
Imagery is defined as any type of description that relates to a person's five senses. Technically, however, there are seven types of specific imagery related to our senses:
- Visual: related to things that may be seen
- Auditory: related to things that may be heard
- Olfactory: related to things that may be smelled
- Gustatory: related to things that may be tasted
- Tactile: related to things that may be touched (with the hand or some other body part)
- Kinesthetic: related to motion and/or movement
- Organic: related to feelings inside the body (i.e. hunger, emotions)
Symbolism refers to things that represent other ideas. For example, a white lamb in a poem may be a symbol for innocence.
So, although there might be symbols used in descriptive images, the two terms are not interchangeable.
Imagery is a term used when referring to any descriptive language used by a writer. When you see something in real life, or in a photo or a film, you see an image. When you read a description of something a writer wants you to visualize (or sense in some other way), he/she must use imagery to get the picture across to the reader.
Symbolism is one thing that stands in for or represents another. Colors are common symbols in literature: white for purity, virginity or cleanliness; red for passion, anger or evil. Usually a color or other object needs to be repeated in order for the reader to understand that the writer intends it to be symbolic.