Examples of Allusion in Literature

Examples of Allusion in Literature: Allusions are often used when communicating in our day-to-day activities. Allusions are literary devices that improve our communication both written and oral. There are many allusions that one can use. The important thing when using allusions is to ensure that our listeners and readers are familiar with the kind of allusions we choose. If the allusion is uncommon with the other party, the whole meaning is lost.

What is an allusion

An allusion is a reference to something or someone commonly known from literature, religion, history, or culture, which the reader is also familiar with. For instance, in most religions, a snake is alluded to as Satan.

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Allusion Examples

Examples of allusions in a sentence

  1. My Friend is the Usain Bolt of this school, for he runs so fast that no one can beat him
  2. Are you still waiting for your prince charming?
  3. After the renovation and upgrading of the park, the whole place looks like the Garden of Aden.
  4. Their love story is like that of beauty and the beast
  5. Be careful of the kind of friends you keep; some will invite you with Judas kiss.
  6. You’re the Martin Luther of our time
  7. Sometimes my cat is Dr. Jekyll and other times he is Mr. Hyde. (Story of Dr. Jekkll and Mr. Hyde)
  8. Since you joined the gym you look like Hercules.
  9. I Hope in your prolonged safari in Africa you were at one time rescued by Tarzan
  10. I Predict that getting fired is my sign of a burning bush

Examples of Allusion

Importance of allusions

Allusions help a reader comprehend and connect with a certain story, movie, poem, song, etc. When a well-known character or event is used information is passed on clearly.

Types of allusions

1. Religious Allusions

What are Religious allusions?

They are allusions that make direct references to religious stories, characters, places, or events within a larger story/text.

Example of Biblical allusion

  1. Even after the prolonged rains, his house remained intact like Noah’s Ark. {Noah’s Ark- Ability to withstand floods}
  2. I am glad you are the Good Samaritan in our neighborhood. {Good Samaritan- Generous and caring}
  3. Go out and work, or you are waiting for manna to come your way {Manna- miraculous food}
  4. He is the Judas of his company {Judas- Betrayal}

2. Historical Allusions

What are Historical Allusions?

They are allusions derived from historical events, individuals, and circumstances. To allow the reader to comprehend this type of allusion, one must ensure his or her readers are aware of the allusion’s significance and place in history.

Example Historical Allusions

  1. Even though he was a well-known Casanova, she still went ahead and married him

“Casanova” was a prominent Venetian explorer and writer who romanticized over 100 women during the early1700s. In short, referring to someone as a Casanova can indicate one who loves women.

  1. She has a beautiful smile, one that beats Mona Lisa’s half-smile

“Mona Lisa” represents the world’s most valuable painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. The painting has a woman with a beautiful simple smile. Beating Mona Lisa’s smile means one’s smile is extremely gorgeous.

3. Cultural Allusions

What are Cultural Allusions?

These are allusions from one culture. The notable fact about cultural allusions is that they are limiting. What could be well known in ones’ culture could be new to someone outside that culture.

Example Cultural Allusions

  1. The Trump administration jogged one’s memory to the Republican administration of Richard Nixon.  

Richard Nixon was forced to step down by the threat of impeachment. 

  1. In East Africa, the courage of true Moran is no longer put to test.

To become a courageous and true Moran, the Maasai culturally required a young man to kill a Lion with only a simple stick.

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4. Literary allusion

What are Literary Allusions?

They are disguised or indirect references to an individual, occurrence, a thing, or a part of a different text that is used by the writer to bring a better understanding to his or her work.

Types of Literary Allusion

Self-reference–These are allusions where a writer mentions another work of his own

Single reference–: they are allusions given based on a single person or event. In these cases, the readers and the audiences should also deduce the same information.

Causal allusion–when an allusion is made but it is not vital to the story and it is generally not part of the story. The author just mentions the allusion without any intention to link it to his work.

Corrective reference–when a writer references another work that is in disagreement by comparison

Apparent reference–when a writer alludes to a specific source but in a challenging way

5. Mythological Allusions

What are Mythological Allusions?

They are allusions based on a mythological figure, event, or story.

Example Mythological Allusions

  1. The Oscar female nominee dressed to perfection, like Venus goddess, everyone talked of their beauty

Venus (the goddess of beauty)

  1. His recent activities have made him look like Hercules

Hercules (referring to the strength of Hercules)

Examples of Allusion in literature

What are Allusions in literature

In literature, allusions are a familiar or common reference to something, someone, or an event from past literature, religion, history, or culture. Below are some examples of allusions in literature 

  1. Allusions in “A midsummer night’s dream”(1600) by William Shakespeare 

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,

And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.


Cupid is a knavish lad, thus to make poor females mad.

“Cupid” was the Roman god of love, he was often seen with a bow and arrow used to hit the intended person.

  1. Allusions in “Timon of Athens” by William Shakespeare 

He pours it out, Plutus, the god of gold,

Is but his steward: no meed but he repays

Sevenfold above itself.

(Timon of Athens, 1.1.301-303)

The allusion here is  “Plutus”, the god of gold in mythology.

  1. Allusions in “To Kill a Mockingbird “(1960) by Harper Lee

Chapter 3

“Atticus kept us in fits that evening, gravely reading columns of print about a man who sat on a flagpole for no discernible reason, which was reason enough for Jem to spend the following Saturday aloft in the treehouse.”

The allusion to “flagpole” sitting was a popular fad in the 1920s. 

  1. Allusions in “Romeo and Juliet “ (I.i. 137-140) by William Shakespeare

 “But all so soon as the all-cheering sun

Should in the farthest east begin to draw

The shady curtains from Aurora’s bed,

Away from light steals home my heavy son”

In these specific lines, Lord Montague talks about “Aurora” – the Roman goddess of dawn. Lord Montague expresses his concern for his son Romeo, stating that he has frequently seen Romeo crying at dawn. Furthermore, Lord Montague expresses that Romeo lacked enough enthusiasm for life. A fact that something worried him and kept him awake most night. Therefore, he habitually slept at dawn – the time when the goddess Aurora awakes from her sleep and rises to the sky. 

Example of Allusion in Poetry

  1. Allusions in “The Mothering Blackness” poem by Maya Angelou

 She came home blameless

black yet as Hagar’s daughter

tall as was Sheba’s daughter

threats of northern winds die on the desert’s face

She came home blameless”

In this poem, Angelou uses the reference “Hagar’s daughter” and “Sheba’s daughter”. Hagar is a Biblical figure, Sarah’s maidservant with whom Abraham had an illegitimate child, and whose line was cursed. Likewise, she feels that her line (black) is also cursed.

Examples of Allusion in Poetry

  1. Allusions in “Nothing Gold Can Stay” poem (1923) by Robert Frost

“Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down today.

Nothing gold can stay.”

Robert Frost briefly mentions the Garden of Eden in the Bible to clearly illustrate his opinion that not even paradise exists forever.

  1. Allusions in ‘Long-Legged Fly’ poem by William Butler Yeats

 “That civilisation may not sink,

Its great battle lost,

Quiet the dog, tether the pony

To a distant post;

Our master Caesar is in the tent

Where the maps are spread,

His eyes fixed upon nothing,

A hand under his head”

In the 1st stanza, Butler emphasizes on Julius Caesar, leader of the Roman Empire, as he strategies on his military plan. In the “Long-legged-fly” poem, Butler draws how Civilisation rests on Caesar winning the battle and hence keeping his empire. The dog is kept quiet and the pony tied far away, so as not to interrupt Caesar as he sits, deep in thought.

 Conclusion: Examples of Allusion in literature

Allusions make literature work more interesting. That is why famous poets and writers like William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Maya Angelo, William Butler Yeats, etc used allusions in their writing. Allusions should be easily identified and understood by readers to ensure the flow of a novel, poem or book is clear.