THETR 461:

Motif and Imagery Paper



A motif consists of repeated elements throughout a work that, cumulatively, have symbolic significance for a larger idea (theme). A motif may be a repeated word or phrase in the dialogue, a recurring image or color, sounds or a refrain of music, an action or situation, or a series of things that are not identical but relate to each other (animals, weather, etc.) The key aspect is that a motif repeats, and through this repetition helps to illuminate the dominant ideas, central themes, and deeper meaning of a story.


Imagery is language used by writers to create images in the mind of the reader intended to evoke a sensual experience in the reader's imagination. Usually, images are a part of a repeated pattern of motifs (but not always) and they are an excellent way to start looking for motifs.

Visual Imagery: The night was black, but bright stars and constellations lit up the sky like someone had shaken a paint brush of white paint on the heavens.

Aural Imagery: The sound of fluttering leaves in the light spring wind gave way to the insistent blast of the fire alarm at the station, rupturing the night.

Imagery using scent: The scent of sweet honeysuckle wafting through the air greeted her with the dawn.

Imagery using taste: The salty, sweet caramel blended on her tongue with the cold and slightly bitter mascarpone, making her close her eyes and smile.

Imagery using touch: Lying in the warm sun after a bracing swim, the saltwater dried in the breeze, cooling his skin and leaving it taught with the astringence of the brine.

Structure of the paper:

Your paper should state at least three motifs and all of their appearances in the script. Put the name of the motif in bold, then list the itterations of that motif with the page number where each motif or image is found in parenthesis.

Then write a brief discussion of how the motif is used or what idea it supports


The white boards (pg. 3,12,14)

The green head (pg. 3, 5, 10) and so forth . . .


The spare use of color to identify specific items or landmarks of importance supports the concept that color is notable in the otherwise harsh, unsentimental, and monochromatic environment in which the characters of "Riders to the Sea" live their lives. Things are seen as utilitarian in this word: Animals are for work and food; land is to be tilled for animal feed, food for the family, and a product to be sold; the sea is for fishing and gathering kelp. Pleasure is never mentioned in this play and there are no descriptions of glorious sunsets or even the various colors in a piece of plaid. Aside from black and white, the only evidence of actual chroma are green and red, which are symbolically associated with life and death.  (Could be a bit more, but you get the idea . . .)

Format of the paper:          

I'm assuming three pages is about right, depending upon the number of instances of the motifs. You may do more than three motifs . . .


Are there spelling, continuity, or punctuation errors, or missing citations? Does the paper meet all requirements on the assignment sheet? Are there page numbers, 1” margins, twelve-point font, staple in upper left corner, MLA style header in the upper left?