And of Clay Are We Created

by Isabel Allende

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What are some strong examples of imagery in "And of Clay We Are Created"?

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Because of the tragedy that surrounds Azucena, much of the imagery seeks to help readers visualize this young girl and therefore experience the depth of loss in Rolf Carlé experiences.

The initial imagery is shocking:

They discovered the girl’s head protruding from the mudpit, eyes wide open, calling soundlessly.

This imagery is meant to captivate readers, pulling them in to the horrors of this child's tragedy. The image is reminiscent of death, utilizing the harsh verb protruding to show how Azucena's head barely rises above the mud, her eyes wide open, and soundless calls furthering a death-like image.

Later when Rolfe Carlé approaches her, the following vivid imagery helps readers visualize the innocence of the child and the precarious situation she is in:

His camera zoomed in on the girl, her dark face, her large desolate eyes, the plastered-down tangle of her hair. The mud was like quicksand around her, and anyone attempting to reach her was in danger of sinking.

The "large desolate eyes" and "tangle" deepens the characterization of childhood innocence; childhood hair is often a mess of tangles created during carefree adventures. This image contrasts that expectation with the precarious situation of Azucena, noted by the inability of anyone to reach her.

Imagery also demonstrates the courage of Azucena to accept her situation and to realize that she will not emerge from this entrapment:

The girl could not move, she barely could breathe, but she did not seem desperate, as if an ancestral resignation allowed her to accept her fate.

The reader is able to shift mental imagery here; this is not a desperate and frightened child. She continues to fight, yet it is also clearly evidenced by her demeanor that Azucena has the mature courage to perceive her inevitable outcome.

Much imagery follows as Rolfe Carlé and Azucena bond through his efforts to keep her alive, but the final image of this child is both beautiful and devastating:

But on the night of that third day, beneath the unblinking focus of quartz lamps and the lens of a hundred cameras, Azucena gave up, her eyes locked with those of the friend who had sustained her to the end. Rolf Carlé removed the life buoy, closed her eyelids, held her to his chest for a few moments, and then let her go. She sank slowly, a flower in the mud.

Her death is peaceful, and in her final moments, Azucena clings to the friend who tried so desperately to save her. The final metaphor shows how her beauty stands in sharp contrast to the devastation which surrounds her, even in death.

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Much of the power in this story comes from the strong contrasts between the simple, remote setting of the mud-covered village and the massive media and technological presence. In particular, the tiny figure of Azucena is juxtaposed to the global image of her.

The village is overrun both with mud and reporters. The author uses massing--a wealth of accumulated detail--to show the impact of the media presence. Rather than summarize with a brief description, she renders a sharply detailed picture. The TV and film crews bring

spools of cable, tapes, film, videos, precision lenses, recorders, sound consoles, lights, reflecting screens, auxiliary motors, cartons of supplies, electricians, sound technicians, and cameramen.

It is an image of cold, metallic, machines, standing out against the natural landscape of the mountain farm town.

Because of the way Azucena was trapped, the reader gets an image of her face, pinched and drawn as she fights the pain. Much attention is paid to her head, as Rolf props it up with a tire, and we feel she is about to slide away from view. The author draws a vivid contrast of that diminishing with the publicity and attention, even fame, as her face grows metaphorically huge.

Azucena's face was beamed to millions of screens around the world.

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Imagery is description using the five senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell.

The story is rich with images. Some examples follow:

First a subterranean sob rocked the cotton fields, curling them like waves of foam.

This sentence contains both sound and sight images. A "subterranean sob" would be a sound like crying/ rumbling ( a sob caught deep in someone's throat) from beneath the earth. We can picture the white cotton fields rocking and then curling like waves as the volcano builds up force. Both "cotton" and "foam" conjure a mental picture the color white.

Some other images would be: "a prolonged roar," an ominous sound image that directly precedes the volcano's eruption, and

walls of snow broke loose, rolling in an avalanche of clay, stones, and water that descended on the villages ...

We can picture white snow rolling down the mountain, and we can envision as well clay, stones, and water heading for the village.

Finally, we learn that

they [the villagers] could see that houses, plazas, churches, white cotton plantations, dark coffee forests, cattle pastures—all had disappeared.

We can form a mental visual image of a village and its surrounding fields and farmland suddenly gone, buried beneath the avalanche caused by the volcano. The vivid imagery conveys the sense of a placid, quiet place suddenly transformed by the unfathomable power of a natural force.

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Images are pictures created with words.  Common forms of imagery are similes, metaphors and personification.

One of the strongest images in the story is the one the story opens with.

They discovered the girl’s head protruding from the mudpit, eyes wide open, calling soundlessly. (p. 1)

This is a very engaging way to begin the story, especially the use of the images “protruding” and “calling soundlessly.”

This image is followed up with other very powerful images, including “odor of death,” “wails of the injured filled the air” and the simile where her head is compared to a “black squash.”

The television cameras transmitted so often the unbearable image of the head budding like a black squash from the clay that there was no one who did not recognize her and know her name. (p. 1)

A simile compares two things using the words “like” or “as.”  Other similes are used, describes the lava as curling “like waves of foam”.  The geologists warnings “sounded like the tales of frightened old women” (p. 2)

There are also examples of personification.  The towns are described as going about their everyday business “deaf to the moaning of the earth” (p. 2) The volcano with “a prolonged roar announced the end of the world” (p. 2) and “the air around him seemed as murky as the mud” (p. 4).  You will see that there are many other similes.

Finally, there are metaphors, which compare without like or as.  The lava is described as a “viscous soup” (p. 2)

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