2 AllusionsDefinition: An allusion is a reference within a work to something famous outside of it, such as a well-known person, place, event, story or work of art, literature, music, or pop culture.
3 More About Allusions An allusion IS a type of metaphor. What is the purpose of an allusion? It allows the reader/viewer understand new information, characters, plot, setting, or other element by connecting it to something already known.
4 Common “Problems” with Allusions Allusions are not to be confused with ILLUSIONSIn order to understand allusions, the reader must have prior knowledge of literature, art, music, pop culture, etc. So, being well-read is important to understanding allusions.Allusions are NOT references to someone/something only a small group of people know. “His smile is similar to my dad’s smile” is NOT something well-known – although it is a comparison.
5 Purpose of AllusionsWhenever you come across an allusion ask yourself…What does the writer want me to understand about the elements of literature such as character, setting, plot, or other element by connecting it to something with which I am already familiar?What is the author’s purpose in using this allusion?*Does it create the same feeling/mood as the original work?*Is it for comedic effect?*Does it show the character’s motives or traits?
6 Allusion Example Sally had a smile that rivaled that of Mona Lisa. Since everyone is familiar with the painting, they can imagine what Sally’s smile looks like.
7 Allusion Example The Karate Kid Disney’s Hercules Hercules alludes to The Karate Kid when Hercules is training. Disney uses this allusion so the viewer thinks of The Karate Kid, and after training in the sunlight, Daniel wins the big match. The allusion is used to foreshadow that Hercules will also be successful in his big match.
8 Most Popular Works used as Sources for Allusions The BibleShakespeareMythologySo, what does that tell you? ---You must be well-read in order to understand most allusions!
9 Mythology Allusion Example Achilles’ Heel When Achilles was a baby, it was foretold that he would die in battle from an arrow. Naturally, his mother did not want her son to die. So she took Achilles to a magical river which was supposed to offer powers of invincibility and dipped his body into the water. But, as his mother held Achilles by the heel, his heel was not washed by the water of the magical river. Achilles grew to be a man of war who survived many great battles. But one day, an arrow shot at him lodged into his heel, killing him instantly. Achilles was still remembered as one of the greatest fighters who ever lived.Modern Day AllusionWhen someone wants to discuss one’s weak characteristic, one will refer to it as the person’s “Achilles’ Heel,” meaning that he is strong in all areas except for that one tiny spot.
10 Biblical Allusion Example In the poem, Runagate, Runagate, the poet Robert Hayden describes the Underground Railroad, an organization that helped runaway slaves escape to the North. He references Harriet Tubman, known for her work in the underground railroad: “Wanted Harriet Tubman alias The General alias Moses Stealer of Slaves In league with Garrison Alcott Emerson Garrett Douglass Thoreau John Brown” (lines 54-57)Here Tubman is compared to Moses in the Bible, who led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt.
11 Shakespeare Allusion Example “Love Story” Lyrics by Taylor Allison Swift We were both young when I first saw you I close my eyes And the flashback starts I'm standing there On a balcony in summer air See the lights See the party, the ball gowns I see you make your way through the crowd And say hello, little did I know That you were Romeo, you were throwing pebbles And my daddy said stay away from Juliet And I was crying on the staircase Begging you please don't go, and I said…Taylor Swift’s song is a direct allusion to Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. It is about two young lovers who were prohibited by their parents from seeing each other.
12 “Turn, Turn, Turn” by The Byrds What’s the allusion?"Who Wrote Holden Caulfield" by Green Day“Turn, Turn, Turn” by The ByrdsTo Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn) There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn) And a time to every purpose, under Heaven A time to be born, a time to die A time to plant, a time to reap A time to kill, a time to heal A time to laugh, a time to weep
13 Allusion AnswersThe red apple on the cover alludes to the apple from the Garden of Eden in the Bible; it represents evil and its potential.Holden Caulfield is the main character in the novel The Catcher in the Rye.The text for the song by The Byrds (a folk music group popular in the 1960’s and 70’s) comes from the Bible book Ecclesiastes.
14 Keep Looking for Allusions: They are All Around You!
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