What is Dissonance: Definition, Types and Examples

Dissonance is a literary and musical term that refers to a discordant combination of sounds or elements, often used intentionally by writers and composers to create a sense of tension or disharmony in their works.

In literature, dissonance can manifest in several ways:

Phonological Dissonance: This type of dissonance involves the clash of sounds, usually within words or phrases. Authors may use phonological dissonance to create a harsh or jarring effect in their writing. For example, the use of cacophonous words or harsh consonant sounds can evoke discomfort or unease in the reader.

Example: “The clashing cymbals and crashing waves created a cacophonous symphony.”

Semantic Dissonance: Semantic dissonance arises from the juxtaposition of contradictory or incongruent ideas, words, or concepts in a text. This technique is often used to highlight conflicts, paradoxes, or ambiguity in a narrative.

Example: “His smile was as cold as fire, and his laughter cut through the room like a gentle knife.”

Syntactic Dissonance: This type of dissonance involves the deliberate disruption of sentence structure or syntax to create a sense of imbalance or tension. Writers may use fragmented or disjointed sentences to reflect the chaotic or unsettling nature of a scene or character’s thoughts.

Example: “In the darkness, a howl. A shadow moves, and the world spins.”

Narrative Dissonance: Narrative dissonance occurs when there is a discord between the narrative voice or perspective and the events or characters described. Authors may use this technique to create irony or to draw attention to contradictions within the story.

Example: A narrator describing a character as honest and virtuous while the character’s actions suggest dishonesty and deceit.

Cultural or Ideological Dissonance: This form of dissonance occurs when a text challenges prevailing cultural norms, values, or ideologies. It can provoke thought and reflection by presenting conflicting perspectives on societal issues.

Example: A novel that explores the dissonance between a character’s personal beliefs and the societal expectations placed upon them.

Also read; What is Mnemonic: Definition and Examples