What is an image in The Children's Hour by Lillian Hellman?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A prominent image is the nightmare speech Karen delivers while talking to Martha. The two women are embroiled in their socially calamitous situation and are recoiling from the effort of trying to understand and find what to do:

KAREN: Martha, Martha, Martha-- ... What are we going to do?

Karen describes her feelings during this time as those one has in the final stages of a nightmare. The image evoked involves alternating sensations of touch (tactile imagery) and sight (visual imagery). First, Karen says her "unreal and awful" sensation is the tactile one of "cold." Then, in a "like" simile she describes her sensation as a visual one of "dark." Now, Karen combines tactile and visual by describing her sensation as one of "struggle" through a "black mess." Karen inverts the previous order and describes her sensation as a visual one in which she can "see" her "bed" and "nightgown." The image of Karen's sensation ends where it began, with a description of it as tactile experience of the "solid" world. This she repeats, saying of their experience that "it's all nightmare; there is no solid world" to awaken to.

KAREN: What are we going to do? It's all so cold and unreal and awful. It's like that dark hour of the night when, half awake, you struggle through the black mess you've been dreaming. Then, suddenly, you wake up and you see your own bed or your own nightgown and you know you're back again in a solid world. But now it's all the nightmare; there is no solid world.

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The Children's Hour

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