Assonance is a rhetorical device often used in poetry and prose to add a deeper sense of meaning to the imagery therein. It is usually defined as the repetition of vowel sounds within words or syllables. For example, the words "wait" and "stay" demonstrate assonance with each other because they both contain the same interior vowel sound.
This literary device is different from rhyme, in that rhyme typically involves the use of similar consonant sounds at the ends of words. Writers generally use assonance to make their imagery seem more vivid, to help draw readers into the story, or to add a sense of musicality to a piece of poetry or prose. Readers are believed to find the repetition of similar vowel sounds within words and syllables both comforting and engaging.
The use of repeated vowel sounds within words and syllables is said to appeal to the ear of the reader and establish the writer's artistic authority. Assonance is often found in poetry, where it generally helps the verse flow more smoothly. It is not generally considered an element of poetic form or structure. Instead, it is more often thought of as a extra poetic flourish. The use of assonance in poetry is generally considered to give the poet more creative leeway, and it can allow the poet to create an illusion of structure in free verse poetry, which does not typically follow poetic conventions such as form or structure.
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Writers typically employ assonance in conjunction with a variety of other literary and rhetorical devices, such as consonance, or the repetition of consonant sounds within a word or syllable, and alliteration, or the repetition of consonant sounds in the initial syllables of words. Prose writers often employ rhetorical devices like these to make their prose sound more poetic. Assonance can help prose writers convey the implied meanings of their words, to express moods and emotions that might not be immediately obvious from the dictionary definitions of the words themselves.
Literary devices that manipulate the sounds of words are often especially popular in children's literature and poetry. Children's nursery rhymes may also contain assonance, such as the classic "She sells sea shells by the sea shore." Rhymes such as these generally also employ elements of alliteration and consonance. The repetition of consonant and vowel sounds through the use of these literary devices is believed to contribute to the entertainment value of literature, poetry and rhymes for children.