Synethesia refers to writing that appeals to multiple senses at one time. A writer uses synesthesia when describing characters, events, and places in a way that appeals to more than one of our five senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching).
A writer may appeal to our hearing and our vision by describing what a battlefield looks like, as well as including the sounds of the battlefield in the description.
A writer may appeal to our senses of taste and smell at the same time by describing how bacon tastes and smells as a character is eating breakfast.
A writer may appeal to our senses of touch and smell at the same time by describing how an old quilt feels and smells, as a character pulls it out of a grandmother's attic.
Examples of Synethesia from Literature
In Ode to a Nightingale, Keats appeals to both sight and hearing:
In some melodious plot,
Of beechen green,
Singest of summer in full throated ease.
In "A Tuft of Flowers," Robert Frost appeals to hearing and seeing:
The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,
That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground
Dylan Thomas also appeals to sight and hearing in "A Poem on His Birthday":
I hear the bouncing hills
Grow larked and greener at berry brown
Fall and the dew larks sing
Taller this thunderclap spring, and how
More spanned with angles ride
The mansouled fiery islands! Oh,
Holier then their eyes,
And my shining men no more alone
As I sail out to die.
Literary Terms Examples