Literary Term: Allusion By Sarah Jeffery
Definition • Allusion: an indirect and usually brief reference to a person, place, or event. • This reference is probably explicit, but its meaning can be understood only if the person, place, or event is well known by all or known by the reader. • An allusion can help the reader develop their understanding of the theme of the book, or bring up a new theme based on that small reference.
Purpose • We, as readers, need to know what allusions are so we can identify them in our reading. • We need to be able to recognize allusions in the books we read because they are usually important in our overall understanding of the book. • For example, if the name of a character was an allusion to a different character in another literary work, that similarity could reveal something about the character that we wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t found the allusion.
Allusion in The Outsiders Allusions: The Poem: “Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower, But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.” • The poem by Robert Frost is a direct allusion. • The book Gone with the Wind is mentioned by title, as well. • The themes of both works help develop the theme of The Outsiders.
Allusions in The Giver • There are many references to the Bible in the Giver: • The baby Gabriel’s name could be an allusion to the Angel Gabriel in the Christian religion. • Jonas’ name alludes to the story of Jonah and the whale. (See poster.) • When Jonas is selected to be the Giver, it alludes to the story of Jesus and how they were both “The Chosen One.”
Allusions in Fahrenheit 451 • The allusions in F451 are significant because they are the references to our classics. • We created our classic presentations and taught our class about their themes and plots to make sure that when the allusions to our classics came up in Fahrenheit, the class would understand them. • Example: “It is computed that eleven thousand persons have at several times suffered death rather than submit to break their eggs at the smaller end.” This was the reference to my classic, Gulliver’s Travels. If you hadn’t watched my PowerPoint on the book, you wouldn’t have understood the allusion to the Laputians and their dispute over breaking eggs.
Allusion in Gulliver’s Travels • The section of Gulliver’s Travels where Gulliver goes to Glubbdubdrib is the land where the king can call people up from the dead. • In this part Jonathan Swift alludes to many renowned thinkers and scientists, battle heroes and royalty. The mention of their names brings up their ideas and philosophies. • This part of the book allows Swift to combine his ideas with the ideas of the people he references in this section. • For example: “I proposed that Homer and Aristotle might appear at the head of all their commentators...”
Allusion in Pop Culture • A literary work might include Jesus’ name to demonstrate the theme of knowledge or self-sacrifice, often for the good of others. • The bracelets and t-shirts that bear the slogan: WWJD?, or What Would Jesus Do?, is an allusion to the wisdom and selflessness of Jesus’ decisions.
Homework Assignment • Find an allusion in your AR book. • Write a paragraph including a short explanation of the allusion, what it alludes to, and what that tells you about your book. • Example: The “It is computed” reference in F451 alludes to Gulliver’s Travels. This helped me develop the themes “the victors write the history,” people dying for what they believe, and rebellion. Finally this led to the dichotomy of making a statement and making a difference. • This assignment is due tomorrow.