What is an allusion?

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literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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An allusion is a reference made to an idea, person, condition, or event which one believes the reader or viewer will understand. At times, the allusion made fails to be understood by the reader/viewer, and the allusion fails to exist (for the reader/viewer, not the author/director). Allusions can be made in all types of media and mediums. 

The following offers different examples of allusions in literature and film/television.

- The Miracle Whip commercial alludes to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

- An American Haunting has a line where John Bell (played by Donald Sutherland) tells a neighbor (who he believes to be a witch) to take her pound of flesh. This is an allusion to William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.

-The "opening credits" of Walter Dean Myers' Monster alludes to Star Wars. 

Allusions do not only need to be written or produced in texts, commercials, or films. People can make allusions in normal conversation. The following are allusions people can make in conversations. 

-This storm better not last for 40 days and nights. This is an allusion to Noah and the Bible.

-Ice cream is my Achilles' heal. This is an allusion to Greek mythology.

- Can I get your John Hancock? This is an allusion to Hancock's signature on the Declaration of Independence. 

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mrafiq's profile pic

mrafiq | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

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The term allusion derives from the Latin verb alludere, which means to play with. It is a figure of speech that makes a reference to a place, person, historical event, myth or a legend. It doesn’t explain the thing in detail it refers to. It is just a reference to it. For more information, please watch this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jrznxl3Ufbg

laurto's profile pic

laurto | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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An allusion is an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly. It is an indirect or passing reference. In other words, an allusion makes reference to something or someone else. You can find examples of it in literature and everyday conversations.

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