What are the allusions in part one of Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King?

There are several allusions in the first part of King's novel Green Grass, Running Water. The majority of these allusions are biblical (Ahdamn and Dr. Joseph Hovaugh), historical (Alberta's students), and literary allusions (Sergeant Cereno).

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Green Grass, Running Water is a 1993 postmodern, fantasy-fiction novel written by Thomas King. One of the most interesting elements of the book is the fact that it is filled with numerous allusions and references to various characters, places and events. In fact, the title of the novel is an allusion on its own, as it references the expression "as long as the grass is green and the waters run;" Euro-American governments used this phrase quite often whenever they were making treaties with the Indigenous people as a guarantee that they would "honor" the agreements. Furthermore, King also incorporates a lot of humor and irony in the narrative, which is why the novel is often categorized as a satire as well.

One of the more interesting allusions in the novel is Dr. Joseph Hovaugh's name, which indirectly references the God of Israel—Jehovah. Unlike Jehovah, however, Dr. Hovaugh is neither wise, nor very noble.

Ahdamn's name is also a rather obvious allusion to the biblical Adam. Unlike the biblical Adam however, Ahdamn is not the first human created by God; he was made after the First Woman and his name might actually be a pun, as he is the one who commits the first sin and thus "condemns" humanity to God's punishment.

King also uses Alberta's students to reference several American historical figures that influenced Indigenous culture. One of these figures is American novelist, poet and teacher Elaine Goodale Eastman, who wanted the Indigenous people to have rights; however, she also firmly believed that they should assimilate to Western culture.

Finally, Sergeant Cereno is an allusion to "Benito Cereno," an 1855 fictional short story written by American novelist, poet, and short story writer Herman Mellvile, which describes a mutiny on a Spanish slave ship captained by Don Benito Cereno.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial