Allusions

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Target goal: I can evaluate an author’s purpose behind a specific literary allusion.
An allusion is a figure of speech that makes a reference to something well-known, be it a place, event, literary work,
myth, or work of art.
“Established, 1790, to burn English-influenced books in the Colonies. First Fireman: Benjamin Franklin.
RULE 1. Answer the alarm swiftly.
2. Start the fire swiftly.
3. Burn everything. 4. Report back
to firehouse immediately.
5. Stand alert for other alarms” (34).
Background: Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), statesman and philosopher, is said to be one of the fathers of the American
Dream. At the same time he is the founder of America’s first fire brigade, which came into being in Boston in 1736.
Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic
activist, statesman, and diplomat. He formed both the first public lending library in America and the first fire department
in Pennsylvania.
What makes this allusion ironic?
“The woman on the porch reached out with contempt to them all and struck the kitchen match against the
railing…”
’She said some crazy thing when we came in the door. ‘Play the man,’ she said, ‘Master Ridley.’
Something, something, something.’
’We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace in England, as I trust shall never be put out,’ said
Beatty…’A man named Latimer said that to a man named Nicholas Ridley, as they were being burnt alive at
Oxford, for heresy, on October 16, 1555’” (40).
Background: Hugh Latimer, the leading English reformer of the sixteenth century and Nicholas Ridley, an Anglican
bishop, refused to recognize Roman Catholic doctrine and therefore were burnt alive for heresy in 1555. Heresy is the
belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (esp. Christian) doctrine, or an opinion profoundly at odds with what is
generally accepted
What is the purpose of this literary allusion? What is the author trying to convey?
“’Well,’ said Beatty, ‘now you did it. Old Montag wanted to fly near the sun and now that he’s burnt his damn
wings, he wonders why. Didn’t I hint enough when I sent the Hound around your place’” (113).
Background: In Greek mythology, Icarus is the son of the master craftsman Daedalus. The main story told about Icarus is
his attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. He ignored
instructions not to fly too close to the sun, and the melting wax caused him to fall to his death. Daedalus fashioned two
pairs of wings out of wax and feathers for himself and his son. Before they took off from the island, Daedalus warned his
son not to fly too close to the sun, nor too close to the sea. Overcome by the giddiness that flying lent him, Icarus soared
through the sky curiously, but in the process he came too close to the sun, which melted the wax. Icarus kept flapping his
wings but soon realized that he had no feathers left and that he was only flapping his bare arms. And so, Icarus fell into
the sea.
What is the purpose of this literary allusion? What is the author trying to convey?
“He was eating a light supper at nine in the evening when the front door cried out in the hall and Mildred ran
from the parlor like a native fleeing an eruption of Vesuvius. Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowles came through the
front door and vanished into the volcano’s mouth with martinis in their hands. Montag stopped eating. They
were like a monstrous crystal chandelier tinkling in a thousand chimes, he saw their Cheshire Cat smiles
burning through the walls of the house, and now they were screaming at each other above the din” (93).
Background:
Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the burying and destruction of the Roman cities of
Pompeii and Herculaneum. Vesuvius itself underwent major changes – its slopes were denuded of vegetation and its
summit changed considerably due to the force of the eruption. Vesuvius has erupted many times since and is
today regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of
3,000,000 people living nearby and its tendency towards explosive (Plinian) eruptions. It is the most densely
populated volcanic region in the world.
The Cheshire Cat is a fictional cat popularized by Lewis Carroll's depiction of it in Alice's Adventures
in Wonderland. The cat is known for his distinctive grin.
What is the purpose of these literary allusions? What is the author trying to convey?
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