Questions tagged [allusions]

Questions about references to other works, external incidents, etc. in literature. Use this tag with the relevant author and work tags if applicable.

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Why is Happy Buddha playing the "Titanic" theme in "How to Be Chinese"?

This is some description of the restaurant Happy Buddha from the short story "How to Be Chinese". Bolding is mine. Look around to see what it’s like in a real Chinese restaurant. The ...
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What does “Hoti’s business” refer to, in Browning’s ‘A Grammarian’s Funeral’?

Robert Browning’s ‘A Grammarian’s Funeral’, first published in Men and Women (1855), describes some of the grammarian’s achievements: He settled Hoti’s business—let it be!—       Properly based Oun— ...
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Did O. Henry allude to Tom Sawyer in "The Gift of the Magi"?

Sidney Porter (O. Henry) was a contemporary of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). They died the same year; Porter attended Clemens' funeral a few months before his own death. Was Porter referring to Twain's ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Allusion in Nabokov's Pnin

In chapter 3, section 6 of Nabokov's Pnin, the main character is carrying a reference work "mainly devoted to Tolstoyana" across the Waindell campus when he drops it by accident: Pnin, on ...
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Who are these historical people alluded to by R.A. Lafferty?

In "The Six Fingers of Time", by R. A. Lafferty, available for free here on Project Gutenberg, there is a claim that having an extra finger or toe is associated with genius. The text gives ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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In Mary Tighe's Psyche, what is the gemstone referred to by allusion?

In Mary Tighe's "Psyche", Canto 1, lines 413 - 414 (see the text), a gemstone is referred to by allusion to an episode in mythology. To quote, And there the gem which bears his luckless ...
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What is the meaning of the reference to a young contemporary author?

At the beginning of Jorge Amado's novel The Double Death of Quincas Water-Bray (A Morte e a Morte de Quincas Berro d'Água, 1959), the narrator seems to allude to something a young contemporary author ...
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Is there anything deeper about the comparisons between Queenie and the Red Queen in "Code Name Verity"?

There's a sequence in Code Name Verity where one of the main characters, called "Queenie" here, is compared to the Red Queen. The time period is WWII. A future version of Queenie is the one &...
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1 vote
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In "Sordello", how do we know the rejected spirit is Shelley?

In book I of Sordello (1840) by Robert Browning, the speaker addresses a group of spirits, Summoned together from the world’s four ends, Dropped down from heaven or cast up from hell, To hear the ...
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Is this Atlas Shrugged quote a deliberate Biblical reference?

Matthew 25:21 (NIV): His master replied, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's ...
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Is there any significance in the cry "Euan, euan, eu-oi-oi-oi" in Prince Caspian?

In Prince Caspian, there's a passage where Aslan apparently uses his power to summon up the spirit of Old Narnia, leading to the eventual defeat of the Telmarines with very little bloodshed. A wild ...
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8 votes
1 answer
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Is Keats' swan with "neck of arched snow" an allusion to Milton's "swan with arched neck"?

I discovered something quite interesting today in John Milton's Paradise Lost. Here is Milton (this is the Archangel Raphael relating to Adam and Eve the creation of the world):                       ...
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1 answer
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Do the opening lines of Frost’s poem “After Apple-Picking” contain a biblical reference?

Robert Frost's poem ‘After Apple-Picking’, collected in North of Boston (1914), is a well-known poem on man’s encounter with the natural world, probing the dilemma of his existence. The first two ...
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2 votes
0 answers
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Does Muriel Barbery's title "The Elegance of The Hedgehog" reflect knowledge of Archilochus' aphorism?

Does Muriel Barbery's title The Elegance of The Hedgehog reflect knowledge of Archilochus' aphorism? Is there information or proof that Barbery had Archilocus' aphorism in mind?
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5 votes
2 answers
261 views

How do we know that Shelley's "Adonais" refers to Byron and Moore?

In every site I've seen that analyzes Shelley's Adonais, they all agree that in the following stanza the "Pilgrim of Eternity" refers to Byron. Here is one example: From stanza 30 to 35, ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Identifying allusions in Eric Jarosinski's poem "TWEET"

The attached picture is a poem by Eric Jarosinski in which he masterfully alluded to some literary and artistic works. Transcription of picture: TWEET The Tweet is not a genre. Rather: it is a frame. ...
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Does Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's novel Vishabriksha have a special meaning in Tagore's Chokher Bali?

Rabindranath Tagore's novel Chokher Bali makes a few references to Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's novel Vishabriksha or The Poison Tree, which was first published in 1873. (The passages below are quoted ...
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5 votes
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Who is the 'one who had lifted it' in Shelley's sonnet about 'the painted veil'?

In Shelley's famous sonnet, which begins 'Lift not the painted veil', the "turn" is placed - unusually - in the seventh line. Lift not the painted veil which those who live Call Life: ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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What movie is Holden describing?

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden describes a movie: It was about this English guy, Alec something, that was in the war and loses his memory in the hospital and all. He comes out of the hospital ...
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3 votes
2 answers
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Allusion to Plato in Fahrenheit 451?

I have been told there is an allusion to Plato in Fahrenheit 451. The name "Plato" is mentioned once, but I don't think it counts as an allusion. He dialled the call on a secondary phone. ...
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8 votes
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What's with the reference to "Alice in Wonderland" in Nalo Hopkinson's "The Reverse Cheshire Cat"?

Nalo Hopkinson's "The Reverse Cheshire Cat" is obviously making a reference to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, with the Cheshire Cat. The two protagonists enter a shop named "The Reverse Cheshire ...
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6 votes
1 answer
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Stendhal reference in Michael Herr's "Dispatches"

In Michael Herr's book about the Vietnam War, Dispatches, he describes Operation Pegasus—the relief of the besieged USMC garrison at Khe Sahn in 1968—in the following way: Pegasus was almost ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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What's the source for the allusion of 'mere vessels of happiness'?

Source: Benatar, David. Better Never to Have Been (2008 1 edn). pp. 36 Bottom - 37 Top.   The judgements supported by the asymmetry of (3) and (4) are not universally shared. For example, ...
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6 votes
1 answer
140 views

Allusion by Albert Camus to another author

In Camus's essay The Sea Close By there's a sentence: This life rebellious to forgetfulness, rebellious to memory, of which Stevenson speaks. (page 5 of Penguin Classics 2013). Can anyone tell ...
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3 votes
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Why could Cú Chulainn not recognise his own son?

I was reading WB Yeats play On Baile's Strand in which the protagonist Cú Chulainn kills a young man whom he later recognizes as his son. How did he not recognize him earlier? Fintain, a character in ...
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8 votes
1 answer
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What is the "Eastern wolf" in this poem?

I'm reading through J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fall of Arthur and in I.29 - I.33 it says [...] But what foe dareth war here to wake or the walls assail of this island-realm while Arthur liveth, ...
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7 votes
1 answer
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Is the speaker with an on-off switch a reference to Orwell?

I'm intrigued by this passage in Lois Lowry, The Giver, chapter 10. He watched as the man rose and moved first to the wall where the speaker was. It was the same sort of speaker that occupied a ...
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6 votes
1 answer
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Vision of the future in Max Beerbohm's "Enoch Soames"

Max Beerbohm's 1916 novelette "Enoch Soames" (available e.g. at Project Gutenberg) is the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil for the privilege of spending an afternoon in a library (the ...
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7 votes
1 answer
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Is the song "Mabel Grey" by Brown Bird an allusion to a real ship?

The song Mabel Grey, by Brown Bird contains peculiar lyrics. The lyrics are awfully specific about what happened to this ship, which is a common pattern I see when a song is referent to a real-life ...
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11 votes
1 answer
1k views

In "The Importance of Being Earnest", what does 'Or they come in the evening, at any rate' mean?

In The Importance of Being Earnest, when Lady Bracknell asks Jack about his politics, he answers "Liberal Unionist". Here's the exchange: Lady Bracknell: What are your politics? Jack: Well, ...
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6 votes
1 answer
535 views

Who is Thoreau quoting (or paraphrasing) here in Walden?

The passage in question is in Walden's conclusion: The philosopher said "From an army of three divisions one can take away its general, and put it in disorder; from the man the most abject and ...
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9 votes
3 answers
15k views

Which Upanishad is TS Eliot referencing with "Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata." and why?

Specifically the last lines of the Wasteland: Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata. Shantih shantih shantih [The Wasteland] The poem was written in 1922, and the invocation can be taken as a ...
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5 votes
1 answer
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Is there a "Romeo and Juliet / Romen and Junior" connection drawn in "Love"?

Two major characters in Toni Morrison's Love are local youth Romen and street-smart Junior, who carry on a love affair while both are employed at the Cosey household. In a 2003 review, Elaine ...
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9 votes
0 answers
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Was Isidora's fate in Melmoth the Wanderer directly inspired by Faust?

When reading Charles Robert Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer I couldn't help but notice that Isidora's fate largely resembled Gretchen's in Goethe's Faust and especially the endings of both storylines ...
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8 votes
1 answer
165 views

Are there any debated authorship references in Thursday Next series?

Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series is a sort of fantasy about literature. Much of the story line about the books and literary characters that appear in this series is obviously made up, but there ...
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15 votes
1 answer
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How does the golden bough in "Sailing to Byzantium" relate to the story in the Aeneid, if at all?

According to Wikipedia of W.B. Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium" is a metaphor for a spiritual journey. Yeats explores his thoughts and musings on how immortality, art, and the human spirit may ...
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23 votes
4 answers
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What reference is Shakespeare making in Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth?

In Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth there is this line. What hands are here? Ha! They pluck out mine eyes. Someone two days ago told me this is a reference to a different piece of literature. I didn't ...
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13 votes
4 answers
4k views

Did the Lord of the Flies have any kind of religious reference more specific than just the Devil?

Lord of the Flies contains an absurd amount of biblical references, one of which being the titular character. The creature is obviously supposed to be some kind of demon or devil, but is this a ...
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