Natural Imagery

What is natural imagery? Explain nature and natural imagery, and analyze this topic in relation to the novel.

Asked on by bb-deng

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teachersage's profile pic

teachersage | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Nature, or natural images, (I will take this to mean nature images, which is how the novelist uses the five senses to describe nature--- a novel is a work of art and art, by definition, is not "natural," and thus, it does not use "natural" images) help set the tone or mood of a story. For example, the opening line of A Wrinkle in Time, about it being a dark and stormy night, parodies a stereotypical opening line in a bad novel, but also points to the importance of setting and establishing a dark tone for a story that will be as much about combating evil, as about the importance of love and family. 

Wuthering Heights is an apt example of a novel in which nature and love of nature play an outsized role. Catherine and Heathcliff find their bliss running wild on the moors, and Catherine especially is associated with the wild, craggy moorland, telling of a dream in which she sobs for joy when, after death, she is thrown out of heaven and returns to her beloved landscape. In this case, the nature setting becomes identified with these two figures, who stand outside of the norms of civilization in their deep, unconventional love for one another that transcends death. In contrast, a novelist like Jane Austen satirizes an excessive, romantic love of nature in a novel like Sense and Sensibility by ridiculing Marianne (who represents sensibility or emotionalism) and her excessive love of nature and nature poetry, showing it to be dangerous and even life-threatening as Marianne's fantasies about Willoughby make her very sick after she is confronted with the reality that he will not marry her. 

In sum, how a novelist uses nature imagery--how a novelist manipulates the five senses to control how we experience nature in a story--sets a tone, be it of foreboding, joy, gloom or mockery--that contributes to how we understand the novel. 

kc4u's profile pic

kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The word 'imagery' is not just a plural form of the word 'image'. Generally the word 'imagery' is used to signify not only multiplicity but also order and design. It refers to an organized and deliberate use of images in a text by the author of the text whereby his or her purpose lies in communicating something on the whole. That is to say, the concerned set of images would have a lot in common in terms of content, structure, idea and mood. It is generally such a cluster of images aesthetically developed from one to the other that is called 'imagery'. Shakespeare's iterative, recurrent and patterned imagery in Hamlet or Macbeth can be cited as examples. The recurrent imagery of blood and darkness in the plays is a case in point.

Images are more at work in poetic language than in the language of prose. In the romantic period 'imagery' was recognized as the kernel to the poetic art. Thus, in Romantic novels like those of Scott, Bronte Sisters and Mary Shelley, one can easily find a lot of natural imagery. Natural imagery means a congruous set of images depicting the world of nature. Such examples are evident more so in the Romantic era due to the romantic stress on the idea of a 'Return to Nature'.

In Hardy's Wessex Novels like The Return of the Native or Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights or even Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, natural imagery is made to work with its own agency and not just as a macrocosm; a reflector of the human world. In these novels, the systematic imagery on nature are like participants in the world of the novel.