A little bit of one story joins onto an idea from another, and hey presto, ...not old tales but new ones. Nothing comes from nothing.
When someone finds it difficult to grasp the meaning of something, how do you make them understand it? By using some sort of examples or comparisons, right? This makes it much easier for both, the person explaining and the person that the explanation is meant for. Similar is the case with various literary devices that are used in the English language. Poets and writers constantly make use of different figures of speech to get their point across. They do this to make their writing more effective, and to add a poetic lilt to it. One such commonly used figure of speech is 'allusion'.
Once you're done reading this Buzzle article, you will understand allusion, what exactly it is, and how it is used, with the help of some great examples.
What is an Allusion?
An allusion is a figure of speech within a piece of written work, which cites another piece of written work in itself. This reference is made directly to a particular place, person, event, another written material or even a piece of art. By using another literary work as a reference, it makes it easy for the reader to understand and also renders the required poetic justice to the current work to a considerable extent.
Examples of Allusion
You can find allusion examples in almost every piece of writing there is. It is one of the best used elements of literature to justify a situation or character, because of the comparison to an already existing or written about situation or character. Given below are some examples used in day-to-day readings and writings, and also in classic literature. Read on to understand better.
She was breathtakingly beautiful, but he knew that she was the forbidden fruit.
This statement is an example of allusion to the Holy Bible. It is something that you'll find very often. There is direct reference to the 'forbidden fruit' that Eve could not resist. In general terms, it's about something that may be very nice, but for some reason should not be linked with.
She transformed her backyard to look like the Garden of Eden.
This is another allusion to the Bible, in which the Garden of Eden has been used as a base of comparison. The backyard is said to be transformed into something as beautiful and enchanting as the Garden of Eden.
His wife was his Achilles' heel.
This statement is a mythological allusion, as it is a clear reference to Achilles, from the Iliad by Homer. His only point of weakness was in his heel.
He lies so much! I am surprised that his nose has not grown like Pinocchio's.
Here, the reference is to the story about Pinocchio, The Adventures of Pinocchio, in which Pinocchio's nose grew longer every time he lied.
She acts like Scrooge, and will never enjoy even the simple pleasures of life.
This is in reference to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. In this, Scrooge is a character who is extremely stingy. The statement above revolves around the fact as to how stingy the person in question is.
He acts like he is the biggest Romeo around town, and cares less what anyone says.
Here, the reference is to Romeo, who is the main character from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Romeo is considered extremely romantic as far as expressing his love for Juliet goes.
We'll miss him a lot. More so, since he was a Good Samaritan to a lot of unfortunate people in our town.
This line compares to the Good Samaritan mentioned in the Bible. He is someone who voluntarily helps those in times of need.
He can scale any structure as if he were Spider-Man.
The reference is to the popular superhero Spider-Man. It is made to describe how good the person is at climbing various structures, just as Spider-Man could.
Everything was on target, until that Benedict Arnold, Chris, decided to switch over to our rivals along with our trade secrets.
Here, the comparison is made with Benedict Arnold, who was a successful American general, but switched sides during the Revolutionary War and started fighting for the British.
We all have collectively decided to boycott this new scheme started by our local government.
In the 1880 'Irish Land Question' controversy, Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott, an English land agent in Ireland, along with his family, was shunned by the community. This is where the term boycott came into use, simply meaning to ignore or do without.
She fell for him, knowing well that he is nothing less than a Casanova.
Giovanni Giacomo Casanova was an 18th century adventurer and writer, who was known to have romanced hundreds of women wherever he traveled. Hence, Casanova is always referred to a man with charisma, who makes numerous romantic conquests.
We need to unite and get this Draconian law regarding jaywalking changed.
This refers to a law that is extremely harsh for a petty crime. Draco was a 7th century lawmaker in Athens, well-known for a legal code that was unnecessarily severe. The death penalty was meted out even for minor offenses.
He met his Waterloo as soon as he ventured outside the safe zone.
Waterloo simply means to be crushed and defeated. It has become common reference to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, in which Napoleon's troops were crushed by a coalition of European forces, which forced him to abdicate and go into exile.
Quotes with Allusion
I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-el, to save the Planet Earth.
―Senator Barack Obama's speech at a fundraiser for Catholic charities; October 16, 2008
In the above statement, it is very apparent that Barack Obama is making a direct reference to Jesus Christ (who was born in a manger), and the very popular Superman, a superhero created by DC Comics and born on Krypton.
I violated the Noah rule: predicting rain doesn't count; building arks does.
Here, Warren Buffett is citing the idea of Noah, from the Bible, preparing for the great flood that was to arrive.
When King Cophetua lov'd the beggar maid!
He heareth not, he stirreth not, be moveth not;
―Mercutio (Romeo and Juliet)
One of the most celebrated writers, William Shakespeare, was also a master of allusions. This statement is from Romeo and Juliet (Act II, Scene I), one of his most popular plays. It compares the pair of Romeo and Juliet to Cophetua and the beggar maid, by pointing out how unlikely the pair was.
You can find various allusion examples in poetry too, if you refer to poets like Robert Frost, Charles Lamb, Eleanor Wilner, etc. Creating an allusion is probably one of the easiest things to do, because all you need is a bit of creativity and a sound knowledge of where and how you can make a reference to something. On the other hand, if you don't know what you're referring to, you'll have a hard time identifying the allusion. So, do your homework, and you'll be an expert in identifying and coming up with examples of allusion yourself.