Stephen King's use of Imagery in his Novel Salem’s Lot

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Imagery is a literacy concept that refers to the proper use of vocabulary and definition to cater to our five senses. Novels' descriptions that refer to our senses of scent, sight, taste, hearing, or touch allude to the use of imagery (Brown 223). Imagery allows readers to more vividly visualize the future, making current topics explored and narrated by the protagonist more understandable. In his novel Salem’s Lot, Stephen King has employed many instances of Imagery that have succeeded to make the novel become better understood as a true representative of contemporary issues of evil and darkness as they affect mankind in the world around them.

The Imagery of Vampires

Vampires have are seen in the novel throughout and can be said to form a major theme in Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. Vampires are used to represent evil that lust for human blood to suck. They are depicted as mean and bloody. Besides, they are symbols and allegories that represent the voice of darkness acting in silence (Brown 226). They can be taken to stand in for the evil, corrupt, the nasty in society and the filth. In the novel, they represent the town’s black secrets hidden form the common person. This is evident when Jimmy and Mark succeed to pull Roy McDougall from beneath the trailer he is writhing, smokes and jerks making the scene “almost unbearable” (King 927).

The unbearableness as depicted as seen here is not genuine represents human unnaturalness since it is evident from earlier scenes that McDougall marriage is loveless and one without hope. We see wife beat their infant child which demonstrates the unnaturality seen later here. Most probably, Mc Dougall’s sickness occurs because he is a vampire but this represents his marriage characterized by lack of sense in almost everything that they do. They hide evil within themselves such that when Jimmy sees them form the hole; their legs to him represent an admirable “Family scene” which is in fact an appearance of normality conceding evil and ungodliness.

In addition, Vampires can be taken to represent the readers of this novel. To some extent, the towns’ people represent the vampires and to some other extent the readers are the vampires. They would qualify for vampires since they feed on corruption and allow degradation to take place while enjoying reading the novel while the town continues rotting and sinking deeper into filth. The reader allows the heroes of this little town to go around murdering the boring people of the town to satisfy their desires. Barlow the evil vampire says, "They spill each other's blood with great vigor." (King 324). Barlow could be said to be referring to the Americans and of these small town while at the same time referring to the author and the readers of his work.

The Imagery of the Marsten House

The Marsten house represents evil just like the vampire. In the novel, the man Hubie Marsten is depicted as an evil fellow who killed many people and such that the novel suggests that his evil lives on after him and that his acts left behind a “dry charge” (King 862). The evil of Marsten made Barlow to come to the town and offer him a place to stay and carry on his killings of the people. Through the killings these house helps happen, it has turned into an “unhallowed ground,” as said by Callahan (King 636). The house can be said to stand above the small town “like a ruined king” (King 814). It is the source of evil and corruption of the town which it contributed to create.

Again, the Marsten can be taken to be representing that not everyone is all bad. Certainly, these is an evil place with Ben specifically experiencing horrors as a child and serving as the central point for everything bad in his life. It is therefore the place where evil seems to be controlled with only one meaning of badness. All in all, Ben came back to “Confront… my own terrors and evils, maybe… Or maybe just tapping into the atmosphere of the place to write a book scary enough to make me a million dollars. But no matter what, I felt that I was in control of the situation” (King 304). The Marsten house is all the same helps Ben to conclude the destiny of his life and as such manage to control it showing its usability as a sign of hope.

While Ben says that things are out of control in the house, with the death of Ralphie Glick, these seems not to have a lot of weight because actually, the real story about Marsten House, Salem's Lot we have actually read is in control f the events occurring in the novel.

The Imagery of the Cross

The cross symbolizes the church. Again, it symbolizes God. Barlow calls it “the symbol of White” (King 477). We see Matt using the cross to frighten away Mike Ryerson, Ben uses it to scare away Mrs. Glick and the father to Callahan’s uses the cross to destroy the lock on the Marsten House while holding Barlow away from the harm.

Further, the cross can be taken to represent hope and restoration that comes with believes of the church doctrines and God. Ben seems to fighting the church or its doctrines in his efforts since long ago. All the same, it presents power outstanding and strong to be fought by evil in vain. The church has however not been equally effective in its mission as can be witnessed in Ben’s words “a direct pipeline to the days when werewolves and incubi and witches were an accepted part of the outer darkness and the church the only beacon of light” (King 591).

Moreover, the cross can be taken as a symbol for hope in horror books. The cross has been depicted as the hope that comes in monster stories to offer salvation and hope to victims of the wrath the monsters unleash. Although the cross of Father Callahan doesn’t fully fend off the monsters, it succeeds in scaring them away. The cross is seen useful to drive off the monsters when Mark uses it to scare them off and then together with Ben, they scare Barlow. (412). When the cross glows making the sky to blast, it serves well as a symbol of God, and the faith that come with horrible fiction novels like Salem's Lot.

The Imagery of Hubie Opening Eyes at the beginning of the Novel

The novel starts with a story Ben tells Susan about a certain ghost. Once a kid in Salem’s Lot’ he went to Marsten House and daringly walked up the stairs only to find Marsten having hanged himself. On opening the door, “And there was Hubie, hanging from the beam with his body silhouetted against the light from the window” who suddenly opens his eyes (King 658). Though the Marsten’s ghost never shows up again, it opens the novel to the many instances of monsters activities that occur later in the novel.

The double opening of the eyes for example and the door has many instances later in the novel that relate to it. Mike Ryerson while in the trance reaches down and opens Danny Glick’s coffin and sees “The eyes were open. Just as he had known they would be”. Also, Matt Burke is listened to “the grind of wood against wood as the window was forced up” while at the guest room. Immediately Mike returns after he rose as Matt goes upstairs, opens the door and while on the bed, “Mike opened his eyes”.

As can be seen, horror can be seen to comprise a lot of events of door opening as well as the eyes. The vampires Hubie, Danny, and Ryerson have been seen opening doors and eyes at different instances representing the darkness that always lay behind the closed doors. This is a replica of the dark life of the corrupt and evil in society (Burger 123). These people never have peace in their belief and art some instances, they have their graves opened to symbolize the unrest that they find in their graves contrary to what is expected. These characters are depicted as the most callous since, instead of resting peacefully in their graves, they rise again to life to increase the human suffering and one is left to wonder whether the human suffering caused by the vampires shall ever come to an end. However, they actions come to an end they are depicted as hard to deal with a real cause of the human suffering.

The Imagery of Allusions representing Real Life Situations

The novel Salem's Lot by King has many instances of allusions that represent real life situations. For example, “And, yes, that's the point. All those allusions to boring political scandals like Watergate”. Still, “boring TV news anchors like Walter Cronkite” serve to give the story a real taste and feel (Brown 224). The author wants to make the reader get the image that these story is set in a contemporary area that is replica to our experience and as such the events as they roll out here can be happening in our immediate lives.

When the author makes the vampire do real events like human beings do like being documented in Dracula to the comic books that about them that exist like Vampirella, the vampires are made to real. Acts like done by Matt of reading vampire literature show that these are real events worthy researching and knowing.

On the other hand, allusions are used to represent fiction of in the novel. Many allusions in the novel tell us that vampires are not real fictions (Reblin 6). The occurrence of vampires in the novel set fiction in the novel and may make the reader to know dismiss the events of the novel as non-real or created. But since the vampires have a history spanning many years back, the author makes the reader believe the dark side of the vampire and that they belong to the dark world and so ought to return there.


In summary, it is evident that Stephen King has employed many instances of imagery in his novel Salem’s Lot to make it real and more vivid in the minds of the readers. As such, he has successfully communicated his themes representing issues as natural as they are in our surrounding life styles and the efforts that we need to constantly apply to deal with them. Every rational reader of the novel need to pay keen attention to the many occurrences of imagery and make meaning out of them which may remain unique to specific readers.

Works Cited

Brown, Simon. "Stephen King’s vampire kingdom: Supernatural evil and human evil in TV adaptations of Salem’s Lot (1979, 2004)." Horror Studies 8.2 (2017): 223-240.

Burger, Alissa. Teaching Stephen King: Horror, the Supernatural, and New Approaches to Literature. Springer, 2016.

King, Stephen. ‘Salem’s Lot’ New York: NAL 1975.

Ra’Del Hollyfield, Jerod. "3 Approximate Others." Postcolonial Film: History, Empire, Resistance 30 (2014): 63.

Reblin, Lyz. "Trio of Terror." e-Research: A Journal of Undergraduate Work 2.1 (2014): 6.

January 18, 2023



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