Where does Shel Silverstein use alliteration and assonance in his poem "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and how do these elements enhance or add to the meaning of the poem?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

By employing assonance and alliteration, Shel Silverstein incorporates both music and melody into his poem "Where the Sidewalk Ends." These are two techniques that enhance meaning.

With both assonance and alliteration, Silverstein has a flow of sound and a rhythm that moves the poem lightly and rapidly at some points. Indeed, Silverstein's sound devices create an appealing tone and movement. The alliteration moves the lines of the poem along, and the interplay of sounds created by assonance, the counterpoint of alliteration, generates patterns and textures of sound in the poem that mimic musical tempos.

The use of poetic devices such as the alliteration and assonance and repetition found in Where the Sidewalk Ends meet the established criteria for good children's poetry because these devices demonstrate compatibility between sound and subject. For instance, in line 3 Silverstein pushes the line toward the ending words of "soft and white" with the repeated /t/ sound. With "there the grass grows," the alliteration of "There the" is repeated in the next three lines (3-5), moving the stanza to its last line. In the second stanza, line 7 contains the alliteration of "blows black," with /b/; then there is "Past the pits," /p/, and "walk with a walk" /w/ in lines 9 and 10.

In the second stanza and in the third stanza the sound of /a/ that is heard between two consonants is repeated in the phrase "walk with a walk." This sound occurs in lines 9,10, and 13, and also in the word "mark" in line 14.

Clearly, the use of such sound devices enhances the appeal to the senses in "Where the Sidewalk Ends." Such appeal is certain to enhance and add to the meaning of the poem for its readers, especially for those who listen to it recited aloud.

lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like many poets, the late Shel Silverstein used alliteration, assonance, and rhyme scheme to create rhythm and continuity in his poetry.  In "Where the Sidewalk Ends", alliteration, the repetition of consonant sounds, is scattered throughout the first stanza in the form of the "s" sound that is found in use of both the letter "s" and the letter "c".

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

When spoken aloud as poems are intended to be, the listener of this poem can hear the alliteration in the words place, sidewalk, ends, street, begins, grass, soft, sun, burns, crimson, and rests

Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds for the same purpose, creating rhythm, continuity, a flow of sorts in the language.  In the second stanza of this poem, assonance is found through the short "a" sound:

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

The assonance is found in the words black, and, past, asphalt, and shall.

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