Literature that makes a statement
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Literature that makes a statement. What is an allusion?. An ALLUSION is an indirect passing reference to some event, person, place or artistic work, an economic means of calling upon the history or the literary tradition that author and reader are assumed to share.

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What is an allusion
What is an allusion?

An ALLUSION is an indirect passing reference to some event, person, place or artistic work, an economic means of calling upon the history or the literary tradition that author and reader are assumed to share

From where do allusions come?

  • Greek & Roman Mythology

  • The Bible

  • Fairy Tales & Legends

  • Historical Events

  • Other Literary Works

Why do i need to know about allusions
Why do I need to know about allusions?

Recognizing allusions will help you become a better reader. You will be able to identify symbols, decipher hidden meanings, and understand the "secrets" behind a writer's craft.

Are allusions used in the real world?

ABSOLUTELY! See if you can guess the following references

Don t be stupid
Don’t be Stupid….


Online dating site that capitalizes on the Greek god of love

The face that launched a thousand ships
The face that launched a thousand ships

Reference to Greek mythology and Helen of Troy. Helen was Zeus’ daughter and was given the gift of beauty…she was known as the most beautiful woman of all. The Trojan war began after Paris of Troy kidnapped the King of Sparta’s wife…you guessed it, Helen. Thus war began!

Mentioned in many pieces of literature all the way from Shakespeare to Edgar Allan Poe.

If you want to win you need to find his achilles heel
If you want to win you need to find his Achilles heel.

More mythology! Achilles was a Greek hero who was invincible to mortal wounds because his mother dipped him in the River Styx as an infant. Only his heel, where his mother held onto him, is vulnerable to injury.

So finding an Achilles heel, means finding one’s weak spot.

Russian humanitarian aid convoy raises trojan horse suspicions en route to ukraine
Russian Humanitarian Aid Convoy Raises ‘Trojan Horse’ Suspicions En Route to Ukraine

This is a headline found in Newsweek Magazine just a few weeks ago. It references the master plan to end the Trojan War. During the war, Odysseus came up with a master plan to infiltrate the City of Troy by sending a “gift” (a wooden horse) to Paris. Why was this a good plan? Well, Odysseus and his men were hiding inside the horse, so as soon as the horse was accepted….SURPRISE!!!!

So a Trojan Horse means to launch a surprise attack.

Can you identify these allusions from the bible
Can you identify these allusions from the bible? Suspicions En Route to

  • Garden of Eden


  • Forbidden Fruit

    Something Morally Wrong

  • Noah’s Ark

    A Safe Haven

  • Judas

    A Traitor

  • Last Supper

    A Farewell Dinner

  • Judgement Day

    The End of the World

Test your fairy tale knowledge
Test your fairy tale knowledge Suspicions En Route to

“I cut these candlesticks myself, so they are easy to adjust. Well, I mean they can be adjusted shorter, it’s kinda hard to adjust them taller; but if they tell a few lies they’ll just shoot right back up”


“Mommy! Come quick! Emily just crashed her bike! Just joking!”

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

“I’m no good when I’m tired. I turn into a pumpkin at midnight.”


Still don t believe allusions are relevant
Still don’t believe allusions are relevant? Suspicions En Route to

Take a look at the allusions used in headlines and articles published by the New York Times.

Oh! Now is the time your remind Ms. Mac to give you the next handout 

Here are some historical allusions you may not recognize
Here are some historical allusions you may not recognize Suspicions En Route to

1. Cross the Rubicon = to make an irrevocable decision.

Julius Caesar crossed the river knowing full well that this move would start a civil war.

  • Pyrrhic Victory = a victory won at an excessive cost, a cost that outweighs the benefits

    Pyrrhic, the King of Epirus, defeated the Romans with heavy losses.

  • Cut the Gordian Knot = to take decisive, swift action to resolve a complicated problem once and for all.

    A Gordian Knot is an extremely intricate knot, and legend says that whoever could undo the knot would rule all of Asia. Many men tried to untie it in vain, until Alexander the Great cut the knot with a single stroke of his sword.

Historical allusions
Historical allusions Suspicions En Route to

  • To meet one’s Waterloo = to suffer a final defeat

    Waterloo is where Napoleon was defeated by the Duke of Wellington

  • D-Day = a beginning day of a major event

    The day that American troops launched a massive counter attack again Nazi Germany and landed on the beaches of Normandy, France.

  • The Fifth Column = hidden traitors within an organization

    During the Spanish Civil War, the fifth column referred to a group of sympathizers or enemy supporters that engaged in espionage or sabotage.

Now the answers
Now the answers… Suspicions En Route to

  • A chivalrous man who is romantically unrealistic and unrealistically idealistic

    Don Quixote (Don Quixote by Cervantes)

  • A womanizer

    Don Juan (Don Juan D’Marco by Lord Byron)

  • A castaway

    Robinson Crusoe (Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe)

  • An efficient and devoted aid

    Man Friday (Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe)

  • A fawning sycophant, an unctuous hypocrite

    Uriah Heep (David Copperfield by Charles Dickens)

Now the answers1
Now the answers… Suspicions En Route to

  • A kind-hearted optimist

    Mr. Micawber (David Copperfield by Charles Dickens)

  • A fat, naïve, kindly, cheerful man

    Mr. Pickwick (Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens)

  • One with a two-sided personality, one good and one evil

    Jekyll and Hyde (Jekyll and Hyde by Robert Stevenson)

  • One who creates and is ultimately destroyed by science

    Frankenstein (Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)

  • A pact with the devil; selling one’s soul

    Faustian Bargin (Faust by Johann Von Goethe)

Now the answers2
Now the answers… Suspicions En Route to

  • A teenage repelled by the hypocrisy of the adult world

    Holden Caufield (Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger)

  • A seductive girl

    Lolita (Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov)

  • A henpecked day dreamer

    Walter Mitty (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber)

  • An illogical, unreasonable, senseless situation

    Catch 22 (Catch 22 by Joseph Heller)