What allusions are used in "The Garden of Forking Paths"?

In "The Garden of Forking Paths," Jorge Luis Borges uses allusions to add meaning, interest, and depth to his story. He alludes to a real history book, the "Chief" of German intelligence, Goethe, a Chinese novel, the symbolism of forking paths, the book The Thousand and One Nights, and Plato.

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If we closely examine Jorge Luis Borges' story "The Garden of Forking Paths," we are bound to notice many allusions. Let's look at a few of them.

The book mentioned in the opening lines, A History of the World War by Captain Liddell Hart, is a real book, and the allusions to it and to its claim about a delay in a planned attack by British artillery set the stage for the "real" account of the incident related in the supposed manuscript that comprises the rest of the story.

The narrator alludes to his childhood in "the symmetrical gardens of Hai Feng." This garden provides a foreshadowing for the discussion of gardens that arises later in the story.

The "Chief" mentioned in the story might well allude to Walter Nicolai, the chief of German military intelligence during World War I. The narrator also alludes to the German author Goethe, who, for the narrator, symbolizes wisdom.

While describing his great-grandfather's novel, the narrator mentions that there are "more characters" in it than in the Hung Lou Meng, an eighteenth-century Chinese novel called Dream of the Red Chamber or The Story in the Stone in English. Like the novel of the narrator's grandfather, Hung Lou Meng is long and complex, but it does not explore the same mysteries.

The name of the grandfather's novel is also allusive (and symbolic), for it can refer to the nature of the narrator's life. That life has become, through the narrator's activities as a spy, very much a maze with twisted paths down which the narrator cannot see.

Dr. Albert alludes to The Thousand and One Nights, an Arabic book of stories. He also speaks of Plato as he discusses the nature and presentations of time.

All of these allusions add depth and interest to the story as readers work to interpret their meanings and figure out how they contribute to this complex little labyrinth of a story.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 18, 2021
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