Figures of speech play a pivotal part in every literary masterpiece. Shakespeare’s Hamlet wouldn’t be half as beautiful if not for the clever utilization of allusions. What are allusions, you wonder! Famous American critic, M.H. Abrams defines allusion as 'a brief reference, explicit or indirect, to a person, place or event, or to another literary work or passage.' In other words, it is a simple figure of speech found in written works, which implicitly or explicitly cites another piece of written work. This is not plagiarism in any way, but just a borrowed anecdote, event or character for the sake of a valid reference. Allusions are aimed at helping readers better understand the content of a fresh literary piece. By alluding to a mythological character or historical episode, a reader is better predispositioned to comprehend the insinuations and hence, savor the story’s undertones. Moreover, allusions provide written works with the much appreciated poetic lift. Read the examples mentioned below to amass a stronger understanding of this popular figure of speech.
Examples Of Allusions
There are a plethora of allusive statements prevalent in English Literature. Be it prose, poetry or playwrights, allusion consistently encompasses a part of almost every noteworthy literary piece.
Allusion Examples in Literature
Allusion In ‘Romeo and Juliet’
O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
While we gape in awe at the captivating words of William Shakespeare, we should also spot the allusions. Ethiope is a crystal clear allusion to Ethiopia, whereby Shakespeare alludes to the Ethiopian slaves seeking shelter in the Moorish harems. They love to adorn themselves with classy jewels in their ears to impress the crowds to have witnessed the wealth of their masters.
Allusion To Jonah
"As the cave's roof collapsed, he was swallowed up in the dust like Jonah, and only his frantic scrabbling behind a wall of rock indicated that there was anyone still alive"
From reading the above verse, we immediately link the scene to the episode of Jonah being swallowed alive by a whale. The writer intended to evoke exactly that image in the minds of the readers, except in this case the character was consumed by dust and rubble.
"Like the prodigal son, he returned to his home town and was welcomed by all who knew him".
"He was a remarkable Prime Minister with feet of clay".
“She was breathtakingly beautiful, but he knew that she was forbidden fruit.”
“She transformed her backyard to look like the Garden of Eden.”
In the first quote, a direct allusion has been made to the prodigal son stated in the Bible, Luke 15: 11-32 which paints a good mental picture in the minds of the readers who are most definitely familiar with the parable of the prodigal son. The second reference points towards Daniel 2: 31-45, wherein 'feet of clay', implies that the Prime Minister has roots with common people and hence, shares the same weaknesses. The third quote obviously allude to the fruit Eve couldn’t resist while the fourth plainly uses the Garden of Eden as a yardstick for comparison.
Allusions To Books And Characters
"Marty's presence at the dance was definitely a Catch 22 situation; if he talked to Cindy she'd be mad at him, but if he ignored her there'd be hell to pay. His anger bubbled to the surface. He realized that by coming to the dance he had brought his problems with him like a Trojan Horse, and he could only hope he would be able to keep them bottled up".
Have you noticed subtle traces of allusions in this paragraph? If you read Joseph Heller’s bestseller Catch 22, you will immediately link the fate of the characters in this verse to the ones in the novel 'Catch 22'. You will hence be able to empathize with Marty’s true feelings. Moving towards the end of the paragraph where ‘Trojan Horse’ has been mentioned, a reader’s frame of mind quickly relocates to the scene in Virgil's Aeneid. The Greeks triumph over Troy by sending warriors hiding inside the belly of a massive Trojan Horse masquerading as a gift. What an impeccable allusion, is it not?
There can be no end to bombarding you with examples of allusions, but everything comes with an expiry period. Interpret the intricate verses present in the books occupying your shelves and spot the allusions. You should be ready for it!