Consonance and Assonance

1. What is it?

Consonance is the repeating of consonant sounds throughout a sentence or phrase.
Assonance is the repeating of vowel sounds throughout a sentence or phrase.

Unlike alliteration or rhyme, consonance and assonance do not have to happen at the beginning or end of a word. They can occur anywhere in a word.

It is often used in poetry, rap, and prose in which rhythm and style are important.

2. Why use it?

Give writing a sense of rhythm (cadence). This is especially true when combined with rhyme, alliteration, and syllable control.Suggest a second layer of depth and skill by showing the writing’s style is as important as its content.

3. Examples

The pitter-patter of rain could be heard against the window. The drops rolled down, each a relief from the stressful summer.

The text read: You’re doing the right thing.
“She believes me”, he thought. “She believes me, and if she could see me at this moment she could even learn to love me.” And so he placed the phone back in his pocket, the rainwater sharp against his skin, the text still fresh in his brain, and continued to plant the roses alongside Melissa’s mother’s grave.

4. Examples in literature

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
Published: 1925
Language: English
Genre: Fiction; novel; tragedy
Plot: Nick Carraway is fascinated by Jay Gatsby, a rich playboy who has moved into a grand estate next door. Over a hot summer Nick learns that Gatsby has a history with Nick’s cousin, Daisy, who lives nearby – and it is a history that Jay has never managed to let go. Despite Daisy now being married to Tom, Gatsby still believes that with enough wealth and charm he can win the girl again and reclaim the past, a time when he was happy.
Setting: Long Island; New York; 1922
Characters: Jay Gatsby; Daisy Buchanan; Nick Carraway (narrator); Tom Buchanan; Jordan Baker

Excerpt from Chapter 9:

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an æsthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.
And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Skimming, Scanning and Basic Comprehension

1. At what time of day is this passage set?
2. What feeling does the narrator think sailors would have felt when they first arrived in America?
3. Next to what type of geographic feature (e.g. mountain, lake, river, forest) do both Gatsby and Daisy live?
4. Briefly summarise what is happening in the passage. 
Identifying Techniques

5. What narrative voice is used in The Great Gatsby?
6. What imagery is used to describe Gatsby’s dream of being with Daisy?
7. Highlight the examples of assonance in the passage. Underline the consonance. 
Text Analysis

8. What effect does stillness and darkness have on the passage? Does it have any symbolic or narrative effect?
9. Time is an important concept in this passage. How does the writer discuss it?
10. What unusual punctuation does Fitzgerald use in the third paragraph? What effect does this have?
11. What does the last line mean? Who are the metaphorical ‘boats’, and what is the ‘current’?  
Provoking Opinion

12. The tragedy of Jay Gatsby is chasing a dream that is already behind him. Is it better to keep chasing it, or to give up and move on? Why?
13. Do you have a dream that you would chase for your entire life?
14. This section of The Great Gatsby is often listed as one of the best pieces of writing in the English language. Why do you think this is? What are your favourite pieces of writing (in any language)?

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
by James Joyce

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Title: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Author: James Joyce (1882-1941)
Published: 1914-1915 (serial), 1916 (novel)
Language: English
Genre: Fiction; novel; modernist; coming-of-age; Bildungsroman
Plot: The teenage years of Stephen Dedalus are a time of strict religious schooling and arguments with his parents. As Stephen grows, he becomes less enamoured by Ireland’s religious, educational and political institutions, and begins a life of pleasure. However, he begins to doubt this life too and returns to church. Spirituality, however, he still lacks real fulfilment. Finally, deciding his calling is writing, he concludes he cannot flourish in his homeland’s society.
Setting: Clongowes school; Dublin; Trinity College
Characters: Stephen Dedalus; Emma Clery; Simon Dedalus; Mary Dedalus; Cranly

Excerpt from Chapter IV:

As he descended the steps the impression which effaced his troubled selfcommunion was that of a mirthless mask reflecting a sunken day from the threshold of the college. The shadow, then, of the life of the college passed gravely over his consciousness. It was a grave and ordered and passionless life that awaited him, a life without material cares. He wondered how he would pass the first night in the novitiate and with what dismay he would wake the first morning in the dormitory. The troubling odour of the long corridors of Clongowes came back to him and he heard the discreet murmur of the burning gasflames. At once from every part of his being unrest began to irradiate. A feverish quickening of his pulses followed and a din of meaningless words drove his reasoned thoughts hither and thither confusedly. His lungs dilated and sank as if he were inhaling a warm moist unsustaining air and he smelt again the warm moist air which hung in the bath in Clongowes above the sluggish turfcoloured water.

1.Which of the following is not utilised in the opening sentence of the passage?

a) Consonance
b) Assonance
c) Alliteration
d) Parallelism
e) Third person narration

2. The narrator’s attitude to starting at a new school might be described as

a) nonchalant
b) panicked
c) eager
d) spiteful
e) lethargic

3. Memories of his previous school, Clongowes, are triggered by

a) smell
b) taste
c) sound
d) touch
e) a specific word

4. The repetition of ‘warm moist air’ in the final line acts to

a) highlight the narrator’s desire to flee
b) emphasise a resurfacing bad memory
c) describe the narrator’s present surroundings
d) suggest the present situation is different from the past
e) create a sense of warmth

5. Both the passages from The Great Gatsby and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

a) use heavy religious imagery
b) are autobiographical
c) link the present to the past within a character’s mind
d) depict an anger at society
e) are allegories of the modern world


5. Tasks

Task 1: Write a sentence that uses consonance, and a sentence that uses assonance.
Task 2: Write a descriptive scene in which consonance and assonance both feature prominently.