A is for Allusion

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

An allusion is a figure of speech that references a place, person, or occurrence, real or imaginary. It is a device used in paintings, opera, folk lore, mythical figures, and writing. The reference can be direct or may be inferred.

Allusions are a part of everyday life. In the 1990’s movie “Scream,” the mask was an allusion to Munch’s famous painting “The Scream.” Taylor Swift refers to such literary works as “The Scarlet Letter” and “Romeo and Juliet” in her song “Love Story.”

Allusions can help deepen the understanding and appreciation of a piece of writing. Within classic poetry, Dante places Virgil as a guide. Referring to ancient myths and gods is an allusion. For example in Poe’s “The Raven,” he refers to Pluto, god of the underworld. When someone says, “He’s a good Samaritan for helping someone in need,” it is an allusion to the Bible. Stephen King alludes to his previous publications within later books, building his own mythology.

I love allusions and actively look for them. It excites me when I catch an allusion, and if there is one with which I am unfamiliar, it often inspires me to look it up.