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Allusion Examples

An allusion is a figure of speech, or hint, that makes a reference to, or a representation of, people, places, events, literary work, myths, or works of art, either directly or by implication. This can be real or imaginary and may refer to anything, including paintings, opera, folk lore, mythical figures, or religious manuscripts. The reference can be direct or may be inferred, and can broaden the reader's understanding.

Allusion can help a writer in several ways including engaging the reader and helping the reader remember details of a message or passage, and also allows the writer to give examples or get to a point in a concise manner. However, in order for the reader to understand a reference, allusion is contingent on the reader having previous knowledge or awareness of the reference used.

Some examples of allusion include:
"She was another Helen," is alluding to the proverbial beauty of Helen of Troy.

"He was the Romeo to her Juliet." Referring to the star-crossed lovers of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
Nothing prepares us for brilliant
entrance of creature of fantasy
or object of enchantment

Useless to resist its allure
always takes unawares

Drawn to its fiery nature
is instantly smitten

souls taken to pyre
heart reduces
to ashes:

Hence Icarus fate
and the tale of Phoenix

Meaning: This poem alludes to Greek mythology to raise the thought of temptation and failed ambition. The reference to the story of Icarus, that is of his fate, evokes the thought of temptation that leads to said failed ambition.

- Lee Emmett (Poem: Firebird)
Poems Lee Emmett
All overgrown by cunning moss,
All interspersed with weed,
The little cage of "Currer Bell"
In quiet "Haworth" laid."

Meaning: "Currer Bell" alludes to the pen name of famed author Charlotte Bronte.

- Emily Dickinson (Poem: All Overgrown by Cunning Moss)
Poems Emily Dickinson
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

Meaning: Starnbergersee and Holfgarten are allusions referring to a pleasure ground and a royal garden both in Munich, Germany.

- T S Eliot (Poem: The Burial of the Dead)
Poems T S Eliot
Chocolate was her Achilles heel.
Meaning: Compares a woman's love of chocolate to the weakness of Greek mythology character, Achilles', heel.
I was surprised his nose was not growing like Pinocchios.
Meaning: This refers to the story of Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi, where his nose grew whenever he told a lie.
It has rained so long, it seems as though it has rained for 40 days and nights.
Meaning: Compares a pouring rain to the Biblical story of Noah's Arc.
Literary Biblical
The killer wore a mark of Cain as he stalked his brother.
Meaning: 'Mark of Cain' is in reference to the Biblical story of Cain and Abel.
Literary Biblical
When King Cophetua loved the beggar maid!
He heareth not, he stirreth not, be moveth not

Meaning: Mercutio compares Romeo's forbidden love for Juliet to King Cophetua's unrequited love for the beggar maid.

- William Shakespeare (Play: Romeo and Juliet)
Literary William Shakespeare
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.
Meaning: Speech at a fund-raiser for Catholic charities Obama has joked that he is Superman and was sent from Krypton to save planet Earth.

Famous Barack Obama
Come with me if you want to live.
Come with me if you want to live.
Meaning: In Terminator 2, Casper transforms into an action hero with steroid pumped into him and invokes Schwarzenegger.
Famous Pictures
Christy didn't like to spend money. She was no Scrooge, but she seldom purchased anything except the bare necessities.
Meaning: In this line direct allusion is being made to Scrooge, who is the famous character depicting 'pinches pennies' in Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol.

- Charles Dickens (Book: A Christmas Carol)
Famous Charles Dickens
That Polonius guy.
That Polonius guy.
Meaning: Cher leaves a note for her teacher from another teacher with lines from Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 and hilariously says it's a famous quote from Cliff's Notes.
Famous Pictures
We few, we happy few. We band of buggered.
Meaning: This is a direct reference to the St. Crispin's Day speech.
Allusion Meaning
What is an allusion?
allusion, in literature, an implied or indirect reference to a person, event, or thing or to a part of another text. Allusion is distinguished from such devices as direct quote and imitation or parody. Most allusions are based on the assumption that there is a body of knowledge that is shared by the author and the reader and that therefore the reader will understand the author's referent.
Allusion Examples
A reference to a mythological literary, or historical person, place, or thing.