Honors English 11
8 December 2006
Devices of Sound in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Bells”
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1809. Poe is known for many of his great works, including his poem “The Bells.” The poem is considered a tour de force, which is a work that shows the author’s superiority as a writer (Cuddon 924). Poe strengthens his poem by using tempo, alliteration, assonance, and onomatopoeia.
Poe’s use of tempo in “The Bells” makes the reader read the poem exactly the way the author wants it to be read. Tempo is described by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language as “a characteristic rate of rhythm” (1325). Throughout the poem, Poe uses rhyming to make the poem flow as it is read. At the beginning of the poem, Poe uses the words, “tinkle, tinkle, tinkle” (line 4). The bells he is describing are small and silver. Readers scan the lines at a fast speed. At the end of the poem, Poe uses longer words to describe large, steel bells. The lines are longer and read slower.
Edgar Allan Poe uses alliteration, the repetition of consonant sounds, in his poem (Quinn 13). This sound device adds to the power and flow of the poem, as well as to its tone. An example of alliteration is seen in the line, “[w]hat a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells” (line 38). Repetitions of the t sounds emphasize the importance of the
poem. Another example is observed when Poe writes, “[b]razen bells” (37). The poet, again, uses this to empower the poem.
Edgar Allan Poe uses another sound device, assonance, in his poem. J.A. Cuddon defines assonance as “the repetition of similar vowel sounds, usually close together to achieve a particular effect of euphony” (58). Like the other sound devices, assonance is apparent in many occasions throughout the poem. One example of assonance in “The Bells” is seen in the words, “moaning and groaning” (line 113). The...