Assonance Examples in Literature

Many examples of assonance can be found in works of literature, including prose and poetry. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in nearby words. It is used to reinforce the meanings of words or to set the mood. Learn more about the assonance definition and review a selection of assonance examples.

assonance example poem robert louis stevenson assonance example poem robert louis stevenson
Advertisement

What Is Assonance?

Assonance (ăs'ə-nəns) is a literary device in which vowel sounds are repeated within phrases or sentences that are close to each other in the text. It can even occur within individual words. Assonance can involve the repetition of identical vowel sounds, or vowel sounds that are very similar. Assonance creates an echoing effect.

  • assonance within a word - crackerjack
  • assonance within a phrase - friends until the end
  • assonance within a sentence - Try to light the fire.

Short Assonance Examples in Literature

When considering assonance examples, it's best to look at individual passages rather than the work as a whole. This is because the echoed vowel sounds must be in close proximity to one another. Consider a few brief examples from books, scripts, songs, and poems.

  • "Hear the mellow wedding bells" - "The Bells" by Edgar Allen Poe
  • "Hear the lark and harken to the barking of the dark fox gone to ground" - Grantchester Meadows by Pink Floyd
  • "When he was nearly thirteen" - To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" - Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  • "In the over-mastering loneliness of that moment, his whole life seemed to him nothing but vanity." - Night Rider by Robert Penn Warren
  • "A lanky, six-foot, pale boy with an active Adam's apple ..." - Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • "The crumbling thunder of seas" - The Feast of Famine by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • "The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain." - My Fair Lady by Alan Jay Lerner
  • "If I bleat when I speak it's because I just got . . . fleeced." - Deadwood by Al Swearengen
  • "Those images that yet/Fresh images beget,/That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea." - Byzantium by W.B. Yeats
  • "Soft language issued from their spitless lips as they swished in low circles round and round the field, winding hither and thither through the weeds" - Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  • "A rolling stone gathers no moss" - proverb attributed to Publilius Syrus
  • "The spider skins lie on their sides, translucent and ragged, their legs drying in knots." - Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard
  • "The setting sun was licking the hard bright machine like some great invisible beast on its knees." - Death, Sleep, and the Traveler by John Hawkes
  • "I must confess that in my quest I felt depressed and restless." - With Love by Thin Lizzy
  • "It's hot and it's monotonous." - It's Hot Up in Here by Stephen Sondheim
  • "Strips of tinfoil winking like people" - The Bee Meeting by Sylvia Plath

Review examples of assonance in poetry for even more excerpts that illustrate this literary device.

Examples of Setting the Mood with Assonance

Mood is an important literary element. Assonance can play an important role in setting the mood in a work of literature.

Long A in Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy

Notice how the mood is set by using the long "a" in this excerpt from Cormac McCarthy's book, Outer Dark:

"And stepping softly with her air of blooded ruin about the glade in a frail agony of grace she trailed her rags through dust and ashes, circling the dead fire, the charred billets and chalk bones, the little calcined ribcage."

The words "glade," "frail," "grace," and "trailed" help set the chilling mood of the work. This sound is repeated and emphasized at the end with "ribcage."

Long O in Early Moon by Carl Sandburg

In this example by Carl Sandburg, in "Early Moon," the long "o" sounds old or mysterious.

"Poetry is old, ancient, goes back far. It is among the oldest of living things. So old it is that no man knows how and why the first poems came."

Notice how the "o" sounds repeat throughout this passage, with even some full words being repeated.

Advertisement

Long A and I in Do No Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas' famous poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" touches upon the subject of death and also sets the mood by using assonance as a literary tool:

"Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage, against the dying of the light./ . . .Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight/ Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

In this literary work, both the long "a" sound and the long "i" sound are used. Some words are repeated multiple times throughout the work.

Similar Literary Devices: Consonance and Alliteration

Consonance and alliteration are sound devices that are somewhat similar to assonance. Both involve repetition of sounds but are distinct from assonance.

What Is Consonance?

Consonance is the repetition of the final consonant sounds. Writers usually use it for the more important words or in the accented syllables. You can see an example of consonance in the line "So that in guys she gently sways at ease" from "The Silken Tent" by Robert Frost. There are many other examples of consonance in literature.

What Is Alliteration?

Alliteration also deals with consonants. It involves repeating the first consonant sound in several words. This is the easiest device to spot and can be fun to say, especially in tongue twisters. There are also many alliteration examples in literature.

  • alliteration in a tongue twister - Betty bought butter but the butter was bitter, so Betty bought better butter to make the bitter butter better.
  • alliteration in literature - "Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade, He bravely breach'd his boiling bloody breast." - A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
Advertisement

Combining Assonance, Consonance and Alliteration

Edgar Allan Poe was a master of combining assonance, consonance and alliteration. You can see all three illustrated in one line from the poem "The Raven":

"And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain"

  • assonance - the "ur" sound in "purple" and "curtain"
  • consonance - the "s" sound in "uncertain" and "rustling"
  • alliteration - the "s" sound at the beginning of "silked" and "sad"

Other Literary Devices

Assonance is not the only basic literary device commonly used in literature. Similes, metaphors, hyperbole, and onomatopoeia are other tools that can be used to make writing interesting, descriptive and colorful.

  • Similes use the words "as" or "like" in making a comparison, like "as busy as a bee" and "You are as annoying as nails on a chalkboard."
  • Metaphors compare two unlike things that have something in common. The statement doesn't make sense until you think about it and see the comparison that is being made. Examples of metaphors are: "The world is my oyster" and "I am going to be toast when I get home."
  • Hyperbole is an outrageous exaggeration, like "I am so hungry I could eat a horse." "You snore louder than a freight train." and "If he talks to me, I will die of embarrassment."
  • Onomatopoeia uses words that sound like their meaning, like "The burning wood hissed and crackled" or words like clap, boom or zap.

All of the literary devices can help make writing and reading fun. Each has its own purpose; but, you can't beat the use of assonance to set the mood of a literary work.

Advertisement

Learn More About Assonance

Examples of assonance can be hard to find because they sometimes work subconsciously and are subtle. The long vowel sounds will slow down the energy and make the mood more somber, while high sounds can increase the energy level of the piece. To discover even more literary works that include assonance, review these assonance examples for kids.