I. What is Assonance?
Assonance (pronounced as–uh-nuh ns) is the repetition of the same or similar vowel sounds within words, phrases, or sentences. The word is derived from the Latin phrase assonare, meaning to answer with the same sound. The following is a simple example of assonance:
She seems to beam rays of sunshine with her eyes of green.
In this example, the speaker uses assonance to describe a pretty woman. Assonance occurs in the repeating vowel sounds of seems, beam, and green.
II. Examples of Assonance
Here are a few examples of how assonance can be used to invoke a certain feeling or to create rhythm:
A girl uses assonance to show dislike:
They’re some creeps who I wouldn’t meet if you paid me a heap of cash!
Like in a rap song, assonance gives a sentence rhythm and musicality . This helps reflect the speaker’s aggressive mood. Assonance occurs in the vowel sounds repeated through creeps, meet, me, and heap.
A poet uses assonance in a different way:
I wish there was a way to make her state similar feelings to those of my soul.
Assonance is used to provide a poem with musicality and softness which mirrors the romantic, longing mood of the line. Assonance occurs in the vowel sounds of way, make, and state as well as those and soul.
III. The importance of using Assonance
Assonance can be used in all types of literature, but is commonly found in poetry. Assonance provides poetic writing with rhythm and musicality. It also mirrors or changes the mood of a poem in order to match the subject matter. Beyond literature, assonance is also found in pop culture, especially in music. As you will hear, it is possible to use assonance in everyday speech. However, most people don’t use it intentionally, unless trying to woo someone romantically!
IV. Examples of Assonance in Literature
Assonance is used in both poetry and prose, but is primarily found in poetry. Here are a few examples:
William Wordsworth uses assonance to reflect the calm and thoughtful mood of his poem “Daffodils”:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o‘er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze…
Host, golden, and daffodils share the same vowel sound. Beneath, trees, and breeze share the same vowel sound as well.
James Joyce invokes the feeling of whispering and beauty in these lines from his novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:
Soft language issued from their spitless lips as they swished in low circles round and round the field, winding hither and thither through the weds.
Issued, spitless, lips, and swished all share the same vowel sound in a way that nearly sounds like soft whispering in rhythm.
V. Examples of Assonance in Pop Culture
Like poetry, music is full of assonance as a sound device for beauty, rhythm, and mood. Assonance is found in all genres of music from post-rock to pop to jazz to rap.
Pink Floyd’s “Granchester Meadows” is full of poetic devices, including assonance:
In the sky a bird was heard to cry
Misty morning whisperings and gentle stirring sounds
Belie the deathly silence that lay all around
Bird and heard; misty, whisperings, and stirring; belie and silence! There are many instances of assonance to be found in this song. Theses allow a mysterious, poetic, and beautiful sound.
Thin Lizzy’s “With Love” also employs assonance:
It’s a tedious existence laying your love on the line
Resistance is useless she can leave at any time
I must confess that it my quest I felt depressed and restless
But this Casanova’s roving days are over more or less
The third line is full of assonance which gives this brokenhearted love song poetic beauty.
Eminem, known for his use of poetic devices in rap, also uses assonance in this line:
Fire at the private eye hired to pry in my business.
Such use of assonance gives Eminem’s rap a clear and steady rhythm.
VI. Related Terms
Like assonance, alliteration involves the repetition of certain sounds. Whereas assonance is repetition of vowel sounds within words, alliteration is repetition of the consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. Alliteration and assonance are both used in poetry to provide rhythm. A common example of alliteration is the tongue twister: “Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers.”
Assonance and rhyme both provide poetry and prose with musicality and rhythm. Although assonance and rhyme both involve repetition, there is a slight difference. Assonance is a repetition of vowel sounds, whereas rhyme is a repetition of both vowel and consonant sounds. Here are a few examples:
Oh, how the evening light fades over the lake.
Fade and lake share a vowel sound, but not a consonant sound, so this line uses assonance rather than rhyme.
Evening light flickers and will fade over the holiday parade.
In this line, fade and parade contain shared vowel and consonant sounds. Therefore, they would be considered a case of rhyme rather than assonance.
Note that assonance occurs as well: holiday shares vowel sounds with fade and parade.
I find this line difficult to complete in time.
In this line, find, line, and time all include the same vowel sound, but have differing consonant sounds. Let’s examine a similar line for rhyme:
I find this grind of coffee in a line of fine brands on the shelf.
In this line, there are two instances of rhyme: find and grind, and line and fine. Interestingly, all share vowel sounds, so although find and fine and grind and line are not rhymes, they form assonance.
In conclusion, assonance is a useful poetic device in which the writer places repeating vowel sounds closely. Doing so gives the composition rhythm and sound, which may reflect the overall meaning or mood of the piece.