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Allusion Definition: a reference in a work to a well-known piece of literature, art, person, or event

Literary Allusions

Allusions are used in literature to enhance meaning by accessing a reader’s prior knowledge of commonly known events, people, or works of art. A reference to one of these things can create several layers of meaning and enhance themes, without the author having to explicitly explain them to the reader. An allusion can also reference a world outside of the actual work, without having to create that world or scenario within the work. An allusion can also be used to simplify a complex concept or scenario, by making a passing reference for the reader to connect to a well-known person or event, and thus create an understanding or emotion that does not have to be explained. The title of the novel The Fault in Our Stars, for example, alludes to Cassius speech to Brutus in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, in which he shows Brutus that fate has not controlled Caesar’s rise to power; instead, they are in charge of their own fates, and have allowed Caesar to gain too much power, putting Rome at risk. This parallels Hazel’s journey to acceptance over Augustus’ death and her own battle with cancer. While cancer and death are inevitable things in life, she gets to choose who hurts her, and she is happy with her choice, as Augustus was with his own.

Allusion Examples in Literature

Be sure to check out our article, "Literary Allusion"!

Bring This to Your Classroom!

Our digital picture encyclopedia resources have easy to understand information with a visual in order to activate understanding and retention. Storyboard That is passionate about creating resources that inspire children to be storytellers, and we want students of all ages to have the ability to showcase what they have learned.

Student Presenting a Storyboard
  • Assign a term/person/event to each student to complete their own storyboard.
  • Create your own picture encyclopedia of a topic you are studying.
  • Create a picture encyclopedia of the people in your class or school.
  • Post storyboards to class and school social media channels.
  • Copy and edit these storyboards and encyclopedia pictures and use them as references or visuals.

Learn more about various devices in literature in our Picture Encyclopedia of Literary Elements!
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