What are some literary allusions in A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly?

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An allusion is a reference to something that a writer or speaker expects the reader or listener to be familiar with and recognize. Allusions add deeper meaning and broader texture to what is written or said: there is an underlying body of knowledge and experience behind allusions that both narrator and audience share. A literary allusion is a specialized kind of allusion that draws from previous literature or current literature, literature that the narrator can reasonably expect the audience to know.

The opening pages of A Northern Light are replete with literary allusions, some definitely intentional, some seemingly accidental. For instance, the opening line, "When summer comes to the North Woods," makes me think of a combination of Robert Frost's "The Silken Tent" ("At midday when the sunny summer breeze / Has dried the dew") and "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" ("To watch his woods fill up with snow. / ... / The woods are lovely, dark and deep."). This allusion, perhaps accidental, to Frost's poems adds an immediate sense of melancholy to Donnelly's story before even ten words are on the page.

Similarly, whether in an intentional or accidental allusion, "the sky ... becomes an ocean of blue," calls to mind Emily Dickinson's poem, "A Bird Came Down the Walk," specifically the mood enhancing metaphor of the bird swimming in the ocean of the sky:

I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home –

Than Oars divide the Ocean,

Literary allusions that are obviously intentional also occur in the early pages. For instance, "Eve had as she bit" is an Biblical literary allusion to Eve's ill-fated encounter with a fruit in Genesis in the Bible, while "Jesus ... [his] pa wasn't a carpenter" is a Biblical allusion to the New Testament Gospels. Shakespeare's Hamlet is rather obviously alluded to in the comment about "Hamlet when he saw his father's ghost." Webster's Dictionary is even more obviously alluded to (and, yes, allusion to Webster's Dictionary may be counted as a literary allusion) with the phrases "Webster's International Dictionary of the English Language" and "Frisdom? Dreadnaciousness? Malbominance?"

As you read through the book, look for expressions that bring to mind other pieces of literature, such as the allusions to the Dictionary and Hamlet, and for expressions that may indirectly bring up moods or images related to poems, stories, novels, or dictionaries (!) you have read in the past.

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What quotations denote the setting of A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly?

Jennifer Donnelly, the author of A Northern Light, spent a good deal of her childhood in the area that serves as the setting for the story.  The setting is the area around the Adirondack Mountains in New York State.  The protagonist, Mattie Gorkey, a sixteen year old girl and the story's narrator,  labels vast mountains the North Woods.  The first sentence of the story provides the initial setting:

When summer comes to the North Woods, time slows down.

From this sentence, the reader knows that it is summer and near the North Woods.

In the next paragraph, Mattie gives more information.  She establishes that part of the story will take place at a resort hotel called the Glenmore.  Mattie will work there. Big Moose Lake represents a part of the murder mystery. In addition, the reader learns that the time of the story begins in July of 1906.

As I stand here on the porch of the Glenmore, the finest hotel on all of Big Moose Lake, I tell myself that today---Thursday, July 12, 1906 is such a day.

Most of the chapters alternate from the spring of 1906 to the summer of the same year.  The chapters,  which take place in the spring and usually in or around Mattie's home, are always labeled with a "word of the day."  Mattie ambitiously likes to add a new word to her vocabulary each day. She does visit several other places in the surrounding area: Minnie's house, the Loomis farm, Miss Wilcox's home. 

Chapter Two illustrates this alternation of settings.  The word of the day is fractious and Mattie will work it into the story in some way.  This chapter takes place at the Gokey home.  Since the death of her mother a year ago, Mattie has had to take over most of her mother's  responsibilities. 

The other chapters present the action during the summer and are concerned with the hotel, its guests, and the death and disappearance of two of the guests.  Mattie becomes involved through a strange set of circumstances that contribute to her race to maturity at the end of the novel.

This is a delightful book with an interesting approach to the setting.  Each chapter brings a new set of interesting characters and events for the heroine.  

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