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A reference to a historical or literary figure or event.

Example: I am no Prince Hamlet.

Often confused with illusion, an allusion is a literary term that refers to a reference in one literary work to another literary work. E.g. The Simpsons television show constantly refers to (some may say, steals from) movies, music, literature etc. In a scene where Principal Skinner is in his office, he suddenly turns to his window and looks out at an old, spooky house while he talks about a tormented relationship with his mother. This is an allusion to the Norman Bates character in the movie Psycho.

I highly recommended M.H. Abram's Glossary of Literary Terms.

Another example of an allusion would be "The girl's love of sweets was her Achilles heel," referencing the warrior in Greek mythology, Achilles, who could only be harmed if something hit his heel because he was dipped in magic water as baby when his mother held him by a heel. Achilles' only weakness is his heel, so an Achilles heel reference means a downfall or weakness, in this example a weakness for sweets.

Example of Allusion

An allusion is a reference to a well-known person, place, event, literary work or work of art. For example:

  • It has rained so long, it seems as though it has rained for 40 days and nights. (This is reference to Noah's Arc which is a well-known event.)
  • Harriet Tubman was called the Moses of her time
  • To act or not to act, that was Maria's dilemma
  • The final game was John's Waterloo
  • Sue did not want to endure Eve's curse, so she opted for the epidural
  • The killer wore a mark of Cain as he stalked his brother - refering to The Bible story: Cain and Abel.
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โˆ™ 2012-01-20 17:22:57
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