In addition to point of view, style, and symbolism, novelists use many other specific techniques in their works. Two of the most important are imagery, the collection of descriptive details that appeal to the senses and emotions of the reader by creating a sense of real experience, and irony, the reader’s recognition that what is expected from a statement, situation, or action is different from what actually happens. Through imagery the writer attempts to embody in images all abstractions and generalizations about character and meaning. Japanese author Kawabata Yasunari is known for the startling images in his work. In Yukiguni (1948; Snow Country, 1956) the hero on the train sees a girl’s face reflected in the window as the mountain landscape flows by outside:
Shimamura had the illusion that the evening landscape was actually passing over the face and the flow did not stop … It was a distant cold light. As it sent its small ray through the pupil of the girl’s eye, as the eye and the light were superimposed one on the other, the eye became a weirdly beautiful bit of phosphorescence on the sea of evening mountains.
The difference between imagery and symbolism is that the purpose of imagery is not to embody meaning but to create an illusion of reality by stimulating the reader’s senses. Nevertheless, an image may also serve as a symbol when it has special meaning and represents another idea, either to the reader or to the novel’s characters. In The Scarlet Letter (1850) by American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, the letter A that Hester Prynne wears is an image in the novel that makes her character more vivid to the reader. Within the novel, in the town in which she lives, the letter symbolizes her adultery. Irony can take several forms and the novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940) by American writer Carson McCullers provides examples of each type. Irony can be dramatic (acting without knowing that the effect of one’s actions is the opposite of what one expected). In the novel, four different characters talk to John Singer, who cannot hear them or speak to them, because they think that he will understand their conflicts with other people. Irony can also be situational. When all four characters happen to visit Singer at the same time, each is ignorant of the fact that they have many problems in common and could perhaps help one another. And irony can be verbal (saying one thing when the opposite is true). Singer says to a friend of his who lives in a mental asylum, “I write to you because I think you will understand.” Authors may also use irony to reveal something about characters to the reader without having the characters become aware of it themselves. In McCullers’s novel, only Singer and the reader are aware that Singer does not understand the characters when they speak to him. Novelists use many other literary devices in their works.