Figures of Speech IloveIndia

Allusion is a figure of speech used to enhance language and refer to other literary works. Read on to understand the various examples of allusions.

Allusion Examples

Allusions probably sound unfamiliar but, as a matter of fact, you would have definitely heard its usage. Do you remember watching movies where characters refer to characters in other movies just to make a point? Well, this is a form of allusion. An allusion, according to M. H. Abrams, is a brief reference, explicit or indirect to a person, place or event or to another literary work or passage. In simpler words, it is a figure of speech that makes direct reference to or represents famous people, places, names, myths or art, within a confined piece of work. Allusions enhance the artistic effect and thus, leave the reader to figure out the meaning, indications and then relate to them. Allusions, however, should not be confused with plagiarism, which means talking about a work of art without permission or crediting its creator. Allusions are commonly found in literature, movies, cartoon characters, prose and poems. Go through the article below for an idea on some of the examples of allusions.

Examples Of Allusion

In Literature, Prose and Poems
  • In the poem, The City of Walls by Edgar Allan Poe, the phrase "up Babylon - like walls" is considered to be an allusion as it refers to the doomed city of death.
  • 'The earth was all before me', the fourteenth line of The Prelude written by William Wordsworth, alludes to the final phrases of Paradise Lost by John Milton: "The world was all before them". It is believed that Paradise Lost also refers to the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis.
  • The Waste Land written by T. S. Eliot comprises of numerous allusions to the works of Shakespeare, Dante, Webster, St. Augustine etc.
  • Allusions are also extended in order to show depth in certain tales such as Little Red Riding Hood. It is visible in Anthony Browne's The Tunnel (1989), where the character of Little Red Riding Hood is not mentioned but several pictorial illustrations allude to it. For instance, the lead character's red coat with the hood is seen hanging on a hook can be related to this well-known story.
  • "Sue did not want to endure Eve's curse, so she opted for the epidural" - Here, the allusion stated is Eve's curse and it illustrates God giving Eve the curse of painful childbirth (Genesis).
  • "The killer wore a mark of Cain as he stalked his brother" - refers to the Biblical story of Cain and Abel.
  • "She was breathtakingly beautiful, but he knew that she was forbidden fruit." This is an example of an allusion in the story of Genesis of the Holy Bible.
  • "It has rained so long, it seems as though it has rained for 40 days and nights." - compares to the story of Noah's Arc.
  • "When King Cophetua loved the beggar maid!" - Spoken by Mercutio, this statement is an example of an allusion in Romeo and Juliet.
For Kids
  • The characters of the White Witch, Mrs. Lefay and Prince Rilianfrom in 'The Chronicles of Narnia' are mere allusions to the Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, Hamlet from Shakespeare and Morgan Le Fay from the King Arthur narrations respectively. In the same movie, a direct allusion can be cited to Aslan representing Jesus Christ.
  • 'Christy didn't like to spend money. She was no Scrooge, but she seldom purchased anything except the bare necessities'. This is a popular allusion to Scrooge, the famous penny-pinching character of Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol.
  • Comic books are constantly referred to either in art or fictitious stories usually to Superman or Batman. Sometimes, even verbal communication consists of these allusions! This also includes Alice in Wonderland, The Famous Five etc.
  • A familiar name in every kid's vocabulary is Harry Potter; this book has hundreds of allusions in them! It has included mythological names, astronomy and folk tales. Certain names used have inherent references to constellations such as Sirius Back as Padfoot, Dog Star etc. Similarly, the three headed dog 'Fluffy' is also an allusion to Cerberus, the Greek mythological character.
  • "The girl's love of diamonds was her Achilles heel" - A quote by the famous French writer, Jean Paulhan.
In Movies
  • In the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the plane which Indy takes in the initial minutes of the footage has the registration number 'OB-3PO', which is a reference to a character in Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi and C-3PO.
  • In Terminator 2, Casper transforms into an action hero with steroid pumped into him and invokes Schwarzenegger. He then says, "Come with me if you want to live."
  • In Snow White, the beds of Casper's uncles have names carved on them similar to the one seen in Seven Dwarfs.
You will come across allusions frequently, be it watching a movie or reading a poem. It is indeed a good tool to work with, for all creative writers. Initially, you need to develop the ability to figure out allusions and then you can go on to understand the content of the script, in the same manner that the author intended to deliver. Hope this article has helped you do the same!

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