Auditory Imagery

Auditory Imagery Definition

Auditory imagery is used to explain things, ideas and actions using sounds that appeal to our sense of hearing. It is intended to invoke up sound images in the minds of the readers. In literature, it means to use words and literary devices in a way that they make readers experience sounds when reading poetry or prose.

It gives the writers a tool to make their texts vibrant and gripping with the use of the words targeting to the sense of hearing of the readers. In fact, it is deliberately inserted to evoke sensory experiences. In this sense, it makes the text appealing to the ears. Its pivotal role is to make the readers connect to the text. It is written as a phrase of two words auditory and imagery. It means that it is related to the images of sounds that we feel in our ears through words.

Examples Auditory Imagery from Literature

Example #1

To Autumn by John Keats

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

To Autumn is a phenomenal poem that relates the life’s stages to the autumn season. The poem explores the phenomenon of unconventional appreciation for the fall season. It comprises the experience of the poet, his meditation and poetic imagination. However, Keats has used auditory imagery in this final paragraph of the poem where animal sounds appealing to the sense of hearing such as, “lambs loud bleet”, “hedge cricket sing”, “the red-breast whistles” and “gathering swallows twitter”.

Example #2

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The poem captures the pull between man and nature. It is about the limitations in which human beings lead their lives, and which never allow them to get distracted from their targets in life. The wandering speaker intends to stay longer in the catchy woods, but the pull of obligations forces him to leave the woods. Therefore, he suppresses his desire and moves on. Frost has used auditory imagery in the poem to make the scenes even more realistic such as, “harness bells a shake” and sound of “easy wind and downy flake.” This auditory imagery is coupled with the thematic strand of the poem giving the readers a sense of the bells shaking and wind blowing.

Example #3

Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Act-II, Scene-III, Lines 1-8


“Here’s a knocking indeed! If a man were porter of

hell-gate, he should have old turning the key. Knock

Knock, knock, knock, knock! Who’s there, i’ the name of

Belzebub? Here’s a farmer that hanged himself on th’

expectation of plenty. Come in time! Have napkins

enow about you; here you’ll sweat for’t. Knock

Knock, knock! Who’s there, in th’ other devil’s name?”

This extract has been taken from the third scene of the second act of the play, Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Porter speaks these lines after the murder of King Duncan. He thinks that he is going to be a guard on the gate of the hell. He is hallucinating and delivering dirty jokes to provide comic relief after the gruesome incident. To show all this, Shakespeare has used auditory imagery. The repetition of ‘knock’ shows how auditory imagery is effectively used to make readers perceive sounds.

Example #4

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

 Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

The Raven is one of the excellent literary pieces. The poem comprises the fear and loneliness of a person, victim of unfortunate circumstances. The use of auditory imagery has made this text more engaging and vibrant. For example, “came a tapping”, gently rapping” and “I muttered” are the words that can help readers to develop an ability to create imagery using auditory senses. This imagery helps readers construct the murky atmosphere when the raven comes to tap on the door.

Example #5

Splinter by Carl Sandburg

The voice of the last cricket
across the first frost
is one kind of good-by.
It is so thin a splinter of singing.

Splinter is a beautiful short poem, and it comprises the reality of life that it is continually. The “voice of cricket” symbolizes a new beginning and the last song of cricket represents its last goodbye before winter. The poet tries to show that life moves on. Therefore, people should also move on, leaving the memories behind. However, the use of auditory imagery throughout the poem has made the poem effective and captivating, as, it connects the readers with the symbolic meaning of the poem.

Auditory Imagery Meaning and Functions

Auditory imagery aids the reader’s imagination about different sounds, types of sounds and their impacts on the readers. This imagery provides the audience with an opportunity to perceive things with their sense of hearing. It also gives them a chance to understand the fictive world and to envision the writer’s imagination about sounds. Its effective use can make the text more lifelike and descriptive.