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The Emotion of Sadness: Art Examples

Emotions help communicate with people, make decisions, act or stop at the right moment, and interact with the world. One of the most important human emotions is sadness: everyone periodically experiences it. It helps people survive trauma or grief, slow down for a while, and then keep living. Examples of depicting sadness can be found in various forms of art, such as literature. Undoubtedly, many books describe a variety of human emotions, in particular, sadness. An interesting example can be noted in An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. In this story, the main character, Clyde, falls in love with a girl named Roberta, she gets pregnant, but after that, he finds another lover. During this period, Roberta writes to Clyde many letters in which she asks him to return and help her survive. In this episode, therefore, readers can find the example of sadness. Each of these letters is filled with suffering and despair, which allows readers to feel her emotions (Dreiser, 2018). In this case, the main method of studying the emotion of sadness is the lexical analysis, allowing understand the meaning of a character’s words entirely.

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One of the most common types of art today is music. A vivid example of a song filled with sadness is Creep by Radiohead. Sadness can be found throughout the whole song because it is filling both text and melody. In this song, a man describes his feelings for a girl with whom he is unrequitedly in love. He sings about her perfection and his flaws, feeling like a stupid and worthless creature: “I don’t belong here” (Radiohead, 1992). Listening to this song, people are imbued with an emotion of sadness because the author uses beautiful and harmonious words and a lyrical melody to convey it. Therefore, listeners understand the hopelessness of the situation and sympathize with the suffering person. In addition to the analysis of words, researchers also can study the musical component of this piece of art. Notably, there are various minor chords in this song, and it also contains dramatic guitar sounds that affect the whole atmosphere. Therefore, studying emotions in music allows people to understand its deep meanings and consider various aspects affecting listeners’ perception of art.

Examples of vivid images of sadness can also be found in cinema. One of the most popular films of recent decades is Titanic, shot by James Cameron. In this film, a significant number of sad scenes can be noted. The manifestation of sadness can be found in the scene when the ship is drowning and the main characters try to stay safe. At the moment when Jack is losing strength, he cannot hold on to the raft and is drowning. Also, the actress who plays the role of his lover sincerely and clearly portrays sadness (Cameron, 1997). Viewers feel how significant this loss is for her: next to this man, she felt completely happy, and having lost him, she suffered deeply. The visual and sound accompaniment enhances all this, and their combination fully conveys to the audience the emotion of sadness. Thus, the audience is immersed in the plot and remains impressed by the film. Cinema allows researchers to consider visual aspects of art: the mentioned scene is dark, and characters look extremely tired and exhausted. Thus, describing words, sounds, and images, it is possible to understand the director’s intentions entirely.


Cameron, J. (1997). Titanic [Film]. Paramount Pictures.

Dreiser, T. (2018). An American Tragedy. E-arthow.

Radiohead (1992). Creep [Song]. On Creep. Parlophone.

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