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50 Best Assonance Examples In Literature

Even if you didn’t know there was a name for it, you’ve probably used assonance in your writing or read it in a body of work. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds across a line of text to achieve rhythm.

When deployed well, they make words stickier. Writers use assonance to create a mood, which is why they are common in works of literature, especially in poetry.

Below are 50 of the best uses of assonance across classic and contemporary literature.

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Best Assonance Examples in Literature

1. I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud – William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, is a poem about the inherent joy of nature’s beauty. It is also widely cited as an example of assonance in literature.

The long o sound in the first four lines captures the peace of walking through a field. Beneath, trees, and breeze in lines five and six also share the same vowel sound, ee.

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2. Daddy – Sylvia Plath

“You stand at the blackboard, daddy,

In the picture I have of you.”

In Sylvia Plath’s most famous poem, Daddy, the repetitive a sound in stand, blackboard, and have creates assonance in the 11th verse.

The words produce a stabbing effect that frames this confessional, contributing to its status as one of the best poems of the 20th century.

3. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce

“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, dragging their long tails amid the rattling canisters.”

Here, James Joyce uses assonance with the short i vowel in issued, spitless, lips, swished, hither, thither, and amid.

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4. Outer Dark – Cormac McCarthy

“…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 assonance created by long a in the words glade, frail, grace, trailed, and ribcage sets the chilling mood that makes this work stand out in Cormac’s bibliography.

5. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night – Dylan Thomas

image source: Pinterest

Dylan Thomas’s famous poem about death has been referenced across different media like Mad Men and Interstellar.

Here, the assonance is created with the long a sound and the long i sound in every verse. The heavy rhyme provides a relaxing effect that balances the heavy theme.

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6. Stopping By Woods on Snowy Evening – Robert Frost

“He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”

In this Robert Frost 1923 poem, he heightens the mood with assonance using e and i sounds.

7. The Raven – Edgar Allan Poe

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

Only this and nothing more.”

The words dreary, weak, and weary have the same long e vowel sound. You feel the u vowel sound in the second line, and the opening verse crescendos in the third and fourth verse with the a sound.

8. Early Moon – Carl Sandburg

image source: Pediaa

Carl Sandburg uses the repeated o sound to create a feeling of ancientness and mysteriousness in his statement. It also serves the additional role of drawing attention to each word on the page, slowing the reader’s pace.

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9. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

“Whether I could remember the rest of the poem or not was immaterial. The truth of the statement was like a wadded-up handkerchief, sopping wet in my fists, and the sooner they accepted it the quicker I could let my hands open and the air would cool my palms.”

Maya Angelou repeatedly uses the short e sound to convey her embarrassment as a child.

10. Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare

image source: SlidePlayer

William Shakespeare uses assonance to a devastating effect in his ultra classic, Romeo and Juliet.

In this excerpt from Juliet’s speech from Act 2 Scene 2, the repeated o sound creates a melodic, woeful effect that helps the reader connect with her emotional agony.

11. Holy the Firm – Annie Dillard

“The spider skins lie on their sides, translucent and ragged, their legs drying in knots”

Annie Dillard’s Holy the Firm explores the mysterious nature of existence. She deploys multiple literary devices to ground the reader in her prose.

Here, we see the long i assonance with spider, lie, and sides.

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12. Forget-Me-Not – John Hodgen

“My brother is dying and I am not.

I drag him behind me like a spiritless balloon, like the first robot,

like the last clown-car clown, his ridiculous Fiat, his lot…”

First, we have the long i in dying, I, behind and like. Then we have the short o in not, robot, and lot. Both sounds give the first verse a sing-song effect.

13. The Bee Meeting – Sylvia Plath

image source: Genius

Sylvia Plath’s The Bee Meeting is an eleven-stanza exploration of vulnerability written in first-person.

He creates vivid imagery with literary devices like metaphors and assonance, like this one from the fourth stanza with the short i in strips, tinfoil, and winking.

14. Night Rider – Robert Penn Warren

“In the over-mastering loneliness of that moment, his whole life seemed to him nothing but vanity.”

The long o in this excerpt from Robert Penn’s first novel captures the emptiness expressed in the line. It starts with over before continuing in loneliness, moment, and whole.

15. The Feast of Famine – Robert Louis Stevenson

image source: Online Literature

Assonance is peppered over Robert Louis Stevenson’s ballad, The Feast of Famine. However, none is as evocative as the ‘crumbling thunder” in the 8th line of this verse.

The short u is melodic, and the words are onomatopoeic, i.e., they sound like the thing they are describing.

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16. Good Kid – Kendrick Lamar

“Trapped inside your desire to fire bullets that stray

Track attire just tell you I’m tired and ran away

I should ask a choir “What do you require

To sing a song that acquire me to have faith?”

Kendrick Lamar communicates his exhaustion using the long i vowel in this verse.

17. the mother – Gwendolyn Brooks

“You will never neglect or beat

Them, or silence or buy with a sweet”

The primary function of assonance is creating rhythm, and Gwendolyn Brooks uses it to build a pleasing effect here.

The short e in never and neglect, the long i in silence and buy, and the long e in beat and sweet.

18. Annabel Lee -Edgar Allan Poe

“And so all the night-tide, I lie down by the side of my darling – my darling – my life and my bride..”

Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabelle Lee is a romantic poem about a young, beautiful, beloved woman. Here, he conveys the romantic mood of the piece with repeated use of the i sound.

19. The Tyger – William Blake

“Tyger, Tyger burning bright in the forest of the night

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”

The introduction to this six-stanza poem by William Blake is brilliant for two reasons: sensory words that bring the words to life and the repeated i and y that give it a catchy rhythm.

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20. The Bells – Edgar Allan Poe

image source: All Poetry

Assonance in the first verse of The Bells is much easier to detect because of the multiple uses of homonyms.

The repetition of the long i sound in several words like icy, night, while, and delight, gives the introductory verse the distinct rhythm of ringing bells.

21. Frost at Midnight – S.T Coleridge

“Have left me to that solitude, which suits

Abstruser musings: save that at my side”

This excerpt from S. T. Coleridge’s Frost at Midnight is from the fifth and sixth lines of the first stanza. The u vowel is used repeatedly in the words – solitude, suits, Abstruser, and musings.

22. The Seafarer – Ezra Pound

“Journey’s jargon, how I in harsh days

Hardship endured oft.”

The repetition of the ar sound in this Old English poem by Ezra Pound is an excellent example of how you can use assonance to draw the reader’s attention to specific words.

The a sound in jargon, harsh, and hardship draws the reader’s attention to the harshness described here.

23. The Cold Wind Blows – Kelly Rogers

“Who knows why the cold wind blows

Or where it goes, or what it knows.

It only flows in passionate throes

Until it finally slows and settles in repose.”

Kelly Rogers uses assonance heavily in this short poem about the sound of the wind. The repeated long o sound is noticeable in the title and words like goes, knows, and throes.

24. Lose Yourself – Eminem

“Oh, there goes Rabbit, he choked

He’s so mad, but he won’t give up that easy, no

He won’t have it, he knows his whole back’s to these ropes

It don’t matter, he’s dope”

Music lovers appreciate Eminem’s Lose Yourself for many reasons. One of them is the repeated use of the long o to create a medial rhyme.

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25. The World is Too Much With Us – William Wordsworth

image source: Poetry Foundation

At the start of William’s poem, assonance occurs with the long a in words like late, lay, and waste.

It also shows up at the end with the long o in forlorn, blow, and horn, where they emphasize the mournful tone of the poem.

26. Theme for English B – Langston Hughes

image source: Pinterest

Langston Hughes wrote this poem about the complexities of being a black student in a 1950s American society.

At the start of the third stanza, he uses assonant words like eat, sleep, drink, and be to convey the connections between him and the (white) reader.

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27. Courage – Anne Sexton

“when you face old age and its natural conclusion

your courage will still be shown in the little ways”

The full text of Courage is largely unrhymed and written in free verse, but Anne Sexton still writes with assonance towards the end, with long a and short i vowels.

28. Sonnet 18 – William Shakespeare

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date”

Rough and buds, shake and May are some ways the Bard deployed rhythm in his most recognizable sonnet.

29. West Beast East Beast – Dr. Seuss

“Which beast is best?…Well, I thought at first

that the East was best and the West was worst.

Then I looked again from the west to the east

and I liked the beast on the east beach least.”

Here is another example where the pleasure of assonance shines through. Dr. Seuss repeatedly uses the ea sound to craft this tongue twister.

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30. The Hill We Climb – Amanda Gorman

image source: Town and Country Magazine

Amanda Gorman uses assonance to convey the passage in America’s history in this poem. It starts with the long a with day and shade, to the long ea in beast and peace, then the long o in norms and notions, and ends with short i sounds.

31. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

“A lanky, six-foot, pale boy with an active Adam’s apple…”

Writers use assonance in their work because it makes it more interesting. In this example from the Russian American novelist, simply stating the boy has an Adam’s apple is bland.

However, the sentence is energized and poetic with the recurring short a sound of active, Adam, and apple.

32. Death, Sleep, and the Traveler – John Hawkes

“The setting sun was licking the hard bright machine like some great invisible beast on its knees”

Here’s another example of assonance in prose, John deploys the long e sound in machine, beast, and knees. The result? A rhythmic sentence with vivid imagery.

33. May-Flower – Emily Dickinson

“Pink, small, and punctual,

Aromatic, low,

Covert in April,

Candid in May,

Dear to the moss,

Known by the knoll”

When used right, like in this example from Emily Dickinson’s short poem, assonance adds lyricism to a sentence. She uses the long vowel o to achieve this effect here.

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34. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

“But at supper that evening when I asked him to pass the damn ham, please, Uncle Jack pointed at me. ‘See me afterwards, young lady,’ he said.”

Other times, writers use assonance to speed up the pacing of a sentence to ramp up to an epic finish. Here, Harper Lee uses the device to capture a charged atmosphere.

35. The Lotos-Eaters – A. L. Tennyson

image source: Poetry Foundation

The entirety of A. L. Tennyson’s The Lotos-Eaters has a gentle mood that guides through the poem. It’s most encapsulated in the second paragraph, with the extended use of the long o sound.

With words like smoke, go, broke, and woven, the line that feels like a psychic message.

36. Mother to Son – Langston Hughes

“But all the time

I’se been a-climbin’ on

And reachin’ landin’s

And turnin’ corners

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.”

Langston Hughes uses interchanges between the long and short i in the middle section of this poem to figuratively express going up the stairs.

37. Ode on a Grecian Urn – John Keats

image source: Internet Poem

The repeated i vowel in the first two lines of this poem calls the reader’s attention before leading us through the speaker’s examination between art, beauty, and truth.

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38. The Solitary Reaper – William Wordsworth

“Will no one tell me what she sings?—

Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow

For old, unhappy, far-off things,

And battles long ago”

William Wordsworth leans a lot on assonance for this poem. In the above excerpt from the third stanza, the long vowel o appears three times in no, flow, and old.

39. The Iliad – Homer

“When Zeus…stills the winds sleep in the solid drift…”

The assonance in Book XII of Lattimore’s translation of Homer’s Iliad creates a lulling sound effect that matches the words’ meaning. Thanks to the short i in stills, winds, solid, and drift.

40. Holy Sonnet 3 – John Donne

image source: Center for Lit

The first line of this poem has the repeated long vowel i sound. While Lattimore used the sound to convey a calming feeling, John Donne embodies his grief and longing with it.

Assonance appears in other parts of the poem, like the long e in ease and been in the thirteenth line.

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41. The Recognitions – William Gaddis

“He diagnosed Camilla’s difficulty as indigestion, and locked himself in his cabin.”

The impact of well-placed assonance improves readability. In this example from William Gaddis’ novel about authenticity in art, the short i in indigestion, himself, and cabin allows the sentence to flow better.

42. Absalom, Absalom – William Faulkner

“So it took Charles Bon and his mother to get rid of old Tom, and Charles Bon and the octoroon to get rid of Judith, and Charles Bon and Clytie to get rid of Henry; and Charles Bon’s mother and Charles Bon’s grandmother got rid of Charles Bon.

The short vowel sound, o, is repeated nine times in this example.

43. The Color Purple – Alice Walker

“She got sicker and sicker.

Finally she ask where it is?

I say God took it.

He took it. He took it while I was sleeping. Kilt it out there in the woods. Kill this one too, if he can.”

Alice Walker introduces the reader to this book’s staccato style and melancholic tone in the first chapter with the repeated i sounds.

44. Sailing to Byzantium – W. B. Yeats

“Once out of nature I shall never take

My bodily form from any natural thing,

But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make

Of hammered gold and gold enameling

To keep a drowsy Emperor awake”

In this poem about nature and aging, W. B. Yeats uses the short vowel o to maintain the feeling of ancientness.

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45. After Apple-Picking – Robert Frost

image source: Poetry Foundation

In this example, assonance occurs twice in the first line. The short vowel sound, a in magnified and apples, and a slightly shorter a sound in appear and disappear.

Frost uses the difference to paint the disorienting nature of falling asleep.

46. Am Strande von Tanger – James Salter

“A heart no bigger than an orange seed has ceased to beat.”

The rhythmic essence of assonant words adds melody to this sentence from James Salter’s first story. The assonance occurs twice: short e in heart and bigger, and the long e in seed and beat.

47. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

“He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance.”

A major function of assonance is emphasizing the mood of the scene. Using the long vowel a and the short a in this sentence, Mary Shelley can convey this moment’s melancholic and regretful tone.

48. The Code of the Woosters – P.G. Wodehouse

“I call her a ghastly girl because she was a ghastly girl. . . . A droopy, soupy, sentimental exhibit, with melting eyes and a cooing voice and the most extraordinary views on such things as stars and rabbits.”

The oo sound occurs in droopy, soup, and cooing.

49. Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard – Thomas Gray

“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,

The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way

And leaves the world to darkness and to me.”

The repetition of the vowel sounds here creates a meditative atmosphere that mirrors the poet’s mood.

50. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

image source: SlidePlayer

Lewis Carroll puts assonance in the title of this children’s book, the short a in Alice and adventure. He continues in the first sentence, as seen in the excerpt above.

Wrapping Up

To conclude, assonance is a literary device that improves writing. Its rhythmic effect also makes reading fun, allowing readers to appreciate the language.

Study how the greats used it, practice them, and incorporate them into your writing. It will make you a stronger writer.