What Is Dark and Light Imagery?

Dark and light imagery is a motif in a work of literature wherein various representations of brightness and darkness are placed in proximity to each other in order to compare or accentuate ideas. The purpose of imagery is to appeal to the reader’s senses in a familiar way.

Light and dark imagery can be used to contrast good and bad, love and hate, or life and death. In other instances, the imagery is utilized to accentuate one of the two concepts. For instance, in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Juliet’s beauty is described in light imagery in the passage, “It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night/ Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear.” The light in contrast to darkness emphasizes her loveliness.