Kinesthetic Imagery

Definition of Kinesthetic Imagery

Kinesthetic is a sense temporized by receptors that are present in the body, such as muscles, joints, etc. In literature, kinesthetic imagery allows the reader to perceive the movement and action of the body. It gives the feeling of physical movement. Thus allowing the reader to experience the conflict faced by the character and even feel the object. Besides movement, the feeling of touch, temperature, and related feelings in this imagery, kinesthetic imagery is graphic and dynamic technique. This literary device is used by the writer to appeal to the senses of the reader so that he can envision the characters and their feelings.

Difference between Kinesthetic imagery and Tactile imagery

Kinesthetic and tactile imagery are so close to each other. Hence, sometimes the reader becomes confused in understanding both. Kinesthetic imagery is all about the feeling of movement, whereas tactile imagery is about the entire body’s sensation.

Kinesthetic Imagery in Poetry

Example #1

Leda and the Swan by W. B. Yeats

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

The movements of wings reflect the violence of birds. The disorientation is quite clear in the words ‘beating’ and ‘staggering’. The kinesthetic imagery is quite clear these images are the result of Zeus molesting Leda(girl).

Example #2

Daffodils by William Wordsworth.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

In this example, the words ‘tossing’, ‘fluttering’, and ‘dancing’ are examples of kinesthetic imagery. The poet here depicts how the daffodils are enjoying themselves like humans. They are having fun as humans do.

Example #3

Stopping by woods on a snowing 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.

In the example given above, the phrase ‘To stop’ shows the indication of movement. It looked as if the wanderer was moving to overlook the beautiful scenery among the woods, and suddenly, he stopped to have a keen look. In the next stanza, three the phrase ‘bells a shake’, is also reflecting kinesthetic imagery; the horse is not easy with the wanderer’s idea to stop in dark woods. He shakes his neck bells to alarm the rider.

Example #4

Chimney Boy by William Blake

And he opened the coffins & set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run,
And wash in a river and shine in the Sun….
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind
And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father & never want joy.

In the above lines, ‘leaping, laughing they run/ wash in a river’ is the showing the movement. These words show the desire of the boy to lead a happy and free life. The chimney boy believes that one day an angel will let them free from the misery they are living in. Further in the next lines, ‘They rise upon the clouds’ and ‘sports in the wind’ is kinesthetic imagery. The image of the cloud is also a metaphor for freedom from boundaries. Here the angel is consoling the boy.

Example #5

Hyperion by John Keats

At this, through all his bulk an agony
Crept gradual, from the feet unto the crown,
Like a lithe serpent vast and muscular
Making slow way, with head and neck convulsed
From over-strained might…”

In the above example, John Keats uses kinesthetic imagery in phrases ‘like serpent vast and muscular’, ‘head and neck convulsed’, and ‘over-strained might’. The word ‘crept’ in the second line is also showing movement.

Example #6

Meeting At Night by Robert Browning

And startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;

The speaker is in the boat and describing the landscape. The phrases’ sleep, pushing prow, quench its speed, warm and to cross’ show movement. This whole poem contains rich kinesthetic imagery.

Kinesthetic Imagery in Literature

Example #1 

Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

“This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice…”

Here in this play, Shakespeare uses kinesthetic imagery in the phrases ‘warm motion’ and ‘kneaded clod’. The play revolves around the theme of fate. The muscular pain and mental tiredness are quite evident in the imagery.

Example #2

 A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

“With a wild rattle and clatter, and an inhuman abandonment of consideration not easy to be understood in these days, the carriage dashed through streets and swept round corners, with women screaming before it, and men clutching each other and clutching children out of its way. At last, swooping at a street corner by a fountain, one of its wheels came to a sickening little jolt, and there was a loud city from a number of voices, and the horses reared and plunged …”

The movement of the carriage is depicted in the piece of art, and the Kinesthetic imagery is vivid in words’ swept, swooping, sickening, plunged and rare’.

Example #3

The Story of An Hour by Kate Chopin

“Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body….creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air….”

These lines ‘beat fast, coursing blood warmed and relaxed, creeping out, reaching and filled’ display the kinesthetic imagery which Kate has beautifully painted.

A Few More Examples of Kinesthetic Imagery in Regular Usage

  • The sun is setting, and birds are flapping their wings to set their journey toward their nests.
  • Its Christmas! He turned on the music, and all the guests started swaying to the tunes of the song.
  • He was just flipping the pages in confusion as the exams were about to start the day after.
  • Salina was throwing stones in the lake and thinking about John’s proposal.
  • The girl batted her eyelashes at Alina as if she was asking for help.
  • His heart was beating fast as he heard the news of the bomb blast
  • The trees were swaying, and leaves were clapping to welcome the spring.

Kinesthetic Imagery in Biblical Verses

  • They will walk after the Lord, He will roar like a lion; Indeed He will roar, And His sons will come trembling from the west – Hosea 11:10
  • Tremble, O earth, before the Lord, Before the God of Jacob – Psalm 114:7
  • When the lad was gone, David rose from the south side and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times. And they kissed each other and wept together, but David wept the more. – Samuel 20:41
  • Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint or hunger at the head of every street. – Lamentations 2:19
  • Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. – Genesis 3:7


All major types of imagery, including kinesthetic imagery, allow the writer to tell the story of action on pages. It’s the sensory observation of movement. Thus, it makes the piece of writing more functional rather, it also allows to reader to glide in the realm of imagination along with the writer.