We often find a lot of figurative language and figures of speech in our literature. This is because through the use of such literary devices the authors are able to evoke emotions, thoughts, and ideas from the readers effectively.
One of the literary devices that is frequently used in literary works is alliteration. Alliteration can be usually found in poetry, drama, and novels. Learn more about alliteration and how influenced literary works in this article.
Alliteration is derived from the Latin word latira which means letters of the alphabet.
Alliteration, one of the figures of speech, is the repetition of initial constant sounds of words in lines, verses, or any group of words.
Like the other figures of speech assonance and consonance, alliteration is a literary sound device that is used to achieve the desired effect of the writer.
The adjective form of alliteration is alliterative.
Make sure you put alliterative words in a close to each other in a phrase, clause, or sentence, so you would be able to achieve your desired effect or the rhythm that you would want your written composition to have.
Differences Between Alliteration and Consonance
The figures of speech alliteration and consonance can be pretty tricky because both have repetitive words with similar consonants.
In alliteration, the alliterative words, or the words with similar consonant initials, are found at the initial parts of the words.
Refer to this line from the poem Sir Galahad by Alfred Tennyson:
“Fly o’er waste fens and windy fields.”
What do you notice about the italicized words? It all starts with the consonant letter f-, right? This poem by Tennyson makes good use of assonance.
On the other hand, consonance is used when the consonant sound is found towards the end of the words.
Refer this line from the poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by 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. –
What do you notice about the italicized words? It all ends with the consonant sound -k-, right? This poem by Frost is an example of consonance.
Authors make use of alliteration in order to evoke feelings and thoughts from the alliterative words used. It is also used to put on an emphasis and an effect on a verse or a paragraph from a novel. It also makes some lines catchy and memorable to the readers especially if the alliterative words were used effectively and not just for the sake of having repetitive sounds.
Alliteration should not be used in every line because remember that when you use alliteration, your aim should always be aiming to get your desired effect. And, it would be terrible if you are trying to get some effect in every single line of your verse.
Like the figure speech assonance, alliteration also has the capacity to sound musical to the ears of the readers. Imagine if you are reading a story filled with alliterative words to a group of children, you can definitely grab their attention, plus they would also be having fun listening to your story.
Examples of Alliteration in Literature
Here are some excerpts from literature where alliteration is being used as a literary device. Take note of the italicized words for these words make these texts alliterative.
1. Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven
“Closed my lids, and kept them close,
And the balls like pulses beat;
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky Lay like a load on my weary eye,
And the dead were at my feet”
2. John Milton’s Paradise Lost
“Behemoth biggest born of earth upheaved
His vastness: Fleeced the flocks and bleating rose,
As plants: Ambiguous between sea and land
The river-horse, and scaly crocodile.”
3. Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
“… his appearance: something displeasing, something down-right detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere …”
4. Vladimir Nabokov’s Conclusive Evidence
“A moist young moon hung above the mist of a neighboring meadow.”
5. Gregory Kirschling’s The Gargoyle
“The sibilant sermons of the snake as she discoursed upon the disposition of my sinner’s soul seemedceaseless.”
6. Alfred Tennyson’s Sir Galahad
“I leave the plain, I climb the height;
No branchy thicket shelter yields;
But blessed forms in whistling storms
Fly o’er waste fens and windy fields.”
7. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’s Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“The fairbreeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.
“Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!”
8. William Langland’s The Vision Concerning Piers Plowman
“In a summer season when soft was the sun,
I clothed myself in a cloak as I shepherd were, Habit like a hermit’s unholy in works,
And went wide in the world wonders to hear.
But on a May morning on Malvern hills,
A marvel befell me of fairy, methought.
I was weary of wandering and went me to rest
Under a broad bank by a brook’s side,
And as I lay and leaned over and looked into the waters
I fell into a sleep for it sounded so merry.
“Then began I to dream a marvelous dream,
That I was in a wilderness wist I not where.
As I looked to the east right into the sun,
I saw a tower on a toft worthily built;
A deep dale beneath a dungeon therein,
With deep ditches and dark and dreadful of sight
A fair field full of folk found I in between,
Of all manner of men the rich and the poor, Working and wandering as the world asketh.
Some put them to plow and played little enough,
At setting and sowing they sweated right hard
And won that which wasters by gluttony destroy.
“Some put them to pride and apparelled themselves so
In a display of clothing, they came disguised.
To prayer and penance put themselves many,
All for love of our Lord living hard lives,
In hope for to have heavenly bliss.
Such as anchorites and hermits that kept them in their cells,
And desired not the country around to roam;
Nor with luxurious living their body to please.
“And some chose trade they fared the better,
As it seemeth to our sight that such men thrive.
“And some to make mirth as minstrels know how,
And get gold with their glees guiltlessly, I hold.
But jesters and janglers children of Judas, Feigning their fancies and making folk fools,
They have wit at will to work if they would; Paul preacheth of them I’ll not prove it here — Qui turpiloquium loquitur is Lucifer’s hind.
“Tramps and beggars went quickly about,
Their bellies and their bags with bread well crammed; Cadgingfor their food fighting at ale;
In gluttony, God knows going to bed,
And getting up with ribaldry the thieving knaves!”
9. Samuel Taylor’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
“The fair breeze blew,
The white foam flew,
And the forrow followed free.
We were the first to ever burst into the silent sea.”
10. Herman Melville ‘s Moby Dick
“…neither of those can feel stranger and stronger emotions than that man does, who for the first time finds himself pulling into the charmed, churned circle of the hunted sperm whale.”
11. William Shakespeare’s Macbeth
“Fair is foul, and foul is fair:/
Hover through the fog and filthy air.”
12. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
13. Robert Frosts’s Birches
“They click upon themselves/
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored/
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.”
14. William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Act I Prologue
“From forth the fatal loins of these two foes.”
15. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
“The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.”
16. Robert Frost’s Acquainted with the Night
“I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street.”
Utilizing alliteration as a literary device in our written compositions is a powerful tool that does not just add emphasis to the words, thoughts, and ideas that we want to relay to our readers but it would also help in relating with them.