Cacophony – a literary device in English is a combination of words that sound harsh or unpleasant together. As a literary device, cacophony refers to the usage of several unharmonious or dissonant sounds in a line or passage. These unharmonious and dissonant sounds usually include the explosive consonants k, t, g, d, p, and b. Other consonants that can have explosive sounds are c, ch, q and x.
As you can hear, the word cacophony itself has two explosive consonant sounds. These consonants repeat in close succession (kuh-koff-uh-nee), making it a cacophonous word.
Use of Cacophony
Cacophony is the use of a combination of words with loud, harsh sounds—in reality as well as literature.
In literary studies, words with rough or unharmonious sounds are used for a noisy or jarring poetic effect.
The key difference between a lot of random sounds and cacophony as a literary device is the intention in using it. A beautiful or melodious sound can draw the reader to a passage or poem. In the same way jarring sounds of cacophony can also serve a purpose. Readers are looking for harmony in sounds and writing, and when they hear the opposite, they pay attention. In many cases, this is to illustrate something ugly, shocking, horrifying, or otherwise unpleasant.
Examples of Cacophony
In everyday life, an example of cacophony would be the amalgamation of different sounds. You hear these sounds in a busy city road or market. You hear sounds of vehicles, announcements on loudspeakers or dog barking at the same time and without any harmony.
We can notice the manifestation of cacophony in language as well.
For instance, in the sentence,
“I detest war because cause of war is always trivial.”
The phrase “because cause” is cacophonic. Because is followed by the word cause, which has a similar sound, but different meaning. Generally, it sounds unpleasant as the same sound is repeated in two different words.
Cacophony can be used in everyday conversation also.
He grunted and in a gruff voice said, “Give me that trash and I’ll throw it out!”
Cacophony Example of “The Colossus” by Sylvia Plath
In her poem, The Colossus, Sylvia Plath uses cacophony to convey a sense of anger.
I shall never get you put together entirely,
Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.
Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles
Proceed from your great lips.
It’s worse than a barnyard.
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