illustrated portrait of Phillis Wheatley

To His Excellency General Washington

by Phillis Wheatley

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How does Phyllis Wheatley use weather and skies to create imagery in "To His Excellency General Washington"?

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An essay addressing the use of vivid imagery, in Phyllis Wheatley's "His Excellence General Washington," will identify and define the images used in the poem, the meaning behind the image, and the use of vivid language to enhance the image. (On a side note, well written images include sensory details which help the reader to create vivid mental images of the scene, person, or image being described). 

The poem's imagery begins with a light image: "“enthron’d in realms of light." This image sets up the remainder of the poem to be positive regarding its central figure and action based upon the initial reference to light. The imagery illuminates the message of the poem--the freedom of the colonies from Britain. As a new establishment, the light of the world was upon the America's. Colonists were discovering the new lands and need to have the path they were to take "lit" in order for them to find success and progress. 

This idea is illustrated through the reference to "realms of light" and "nations gaze at scenes." The light of the world is upon the America's. The colonists, Washington, and other nations can (and will) see what must be done to gain freedom from Britain. Even the heavens, referred to through the reference to the Goddess, look down upon what is happening. This proves that the light of the world is upon them. 

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