What is an example of allusion in "To Build A Fire"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An allusion is "a reference to someone or something that is known from history, literature, religion, politics, science or some other branch of culture," such as mythology.

In Jack London's naturalistic short story, "To Build a Fire," there are at least two allusions:

  1. In paragraph 3, the main character, the "man," is described as being a newcomer to the Yukon territory, a cheechako, which is footnoted in some textbooks as meaning "newcomer" or "tenderfoot" in Chinook jargon. The Chinooks are Native Americans from the Pacific Northwest.
  2. In paragraph 34, the man tries to run on his freezing feet, and as he does so, he feels as though he "skim[s] along above the surface," causing him to wonder if the sensation he feels is like that of the Roman deity, Mercury, of whom he had once seen a picture. When he acted as messenger of the gods and ran with winged feet and hat, Mercury became the patron god of many attributes, one of which, ironically, was luck.