Definition of Allusion
An allusion is a brief reference to a person, thing, place, event, or some literary work with which the reader is likely to be familiar. Such as a literary device, allusion allows a writer to pack a lot of meaning and significance into a single word or phrase.
However, allusions are only effective if the reader recognizes and understands them and if they are correctly inferred and interpreted by the reader. When an allusion is unclear or misunderstood, it loses effectiveness because it confuses the reader.
An allusion is derived from the Latin word alludere, which means “to refer to” or “to play with.” Alludere is derived from the Latin word ludere, which means “to play,” and inspired several other English words, such as collusion, delusion, and illusion. Allusion and illusion are interchangeable. However, an allusion is a brief reference, whereas an illusion is an image that misleads or deceives.
In his novel Ragtime, for example, E.L. Doctorow’s character “Little Boy” tells the character of a person traveling to Europe to “warn the duke.” As a reference to Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, whose assassination set the circumstances that caused World War I in motion. Doctorow’s allusion is compelling for readers who recognize and understand the reference. Moreover, it emphasizes how one historical action can have long-term global consequences for readers.
What is Allusion?
An allusion is a pictorial or figure of speech that refers to a specific person, place, object, or event. These concepts can be natural or fictitious and refer to anything from fiction to folklore to historical events and religious texts. These references can be direct or indirect, but they almost always help the reader understand the text. An allusion is an excellent way to reinforce a work’s message or theme. This rhetorical device enables the writer to provide an example or convey a message without engaging in a lengthy discussion.
Allusions can be tricky. Allusions rely on the reader’s knowledge of whatever external thing the author refers to which is not explained. T. S. Eliot, for example, wrote a poem called “The Waste Land,” which is widely regarded as one of the important poems of the 20th century by scholars and academics. “The Waste Land,” on the other hand, is so densely packed with allusions that most casual readers find it impenetrable. As a result, the majority of readers don’t get it, and the risk writers take when employing allusions.
Types of Allusion
Allusions can be made to various sources, and referenced subject determines the specific type of allusion. These are some examples of common allusions.
- Historical allusions are allusions to past events or periods.
- Mythological: Allusions to fictitious stories or figures are known as mythological allusions.
- Literary/intertextual allusions: allusions to a literary text or figure.
- Religious allusions: references to a sacred text or figure
- Autobiographical: Allusions to events in the author’s life are considered autobiographical.
Examples of Allusion
Some common allusion examples in everyday life are:
- In my class, we do serious work. This isn’t the Mickey Mouse Club.
- Come. You’ll be Cleopatra to my Mark Antony.
- When you met my parents, did you think you were at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show?
- She’s wearing a Cheshire cat grin: Wonderland’s Alice
- My math teacher’s name shall not be mentioned. Voldemort is a made-up individual from the Harry Potter books.
- We were listening to The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” when it began to rain.
- My mum pushed me to see the movie Mona Lisa Smile.
- I wish I could click my heels together: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- She had the distinct impression that she had a golden ticket to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
- That is the type of beard Teen Wolf would grow.
Examples of Classical Mythology Allusion
- Every day, I push a boulder uphill (an allusion to Sisyphus)
- Opening Pandora’s box (a reference to the legend that says Pandora brought trouble into the world)
- Love’s arrow (an allusion to Cupid)
- unable to quit focusing on himself (an allusion to Narcissus)
- You are carrying the weight of the entire world on your shoulders (an allusion to Atlas)
Examples of Literary Allusion
- Causal reference: when a reference is made but isn’t required for the plot
- Apparent reference—when an author alludes to a specific source in an unusual way
- Multiple references—when an author makes numerous references
Turito offers several resources to help students prepare for the English section of the ACT and SAT Exams. Here are a few examples:
- Students can prepare through Video lessons
- Practice questions – These questions can help students identify areas where they need to improve and track their progress over time.
- Reading comprehension: The ACT English section includes questions on reading comprehension, so this would be a very useful resource to help students prepare.
- Writing and Essay: This may include practice prompts, sample essays and feedback on essays.