Hello there! We’re working now with students who are in the third and fourth form classes at school—getting ready for exams in 2019 and 2020. It’s important to work steadily throughout the year; don’t leave it all until the last minute. We want to help you, so we invite you to join us every Sunday to look at various aspects of the CSEC English A and B syllabi. Read on now, and enjoy your CSEC English page.
What is allusion? When a person makes reference to some well-known event, or mentions a famous remark by a well-known speaker, we say that they are ALLUDING to that event or to that famous speech.
The Tradewinds have a song which is immensely popular, and stirs the hearts of Guyanese whenever border disputes surface. The chorus goes like this:
We ain’t giving up no mountains We ain’t giving up no tree We ain’t giving up no river That belongs to we Not one blue saki, Not one rice grain, Not one cuirass, Not a blade of grass.
Dave Martins explains that the inspiration came to him from a speech made by a North American indigenous Indian who was resisting the white man’s attempt to invade the American West. Martins continues: “The Indian spoke about his people’s love for their land; that they would not give up one river, not one buffalo, not one valley, not even one blade of grass.”
So Dave Martins tells us that the words “not even one blade of grass” were originally used by the North American Indian, insisting that the European settlers had no right to steal his people’s land. In using the same words to insist that no one has the right to steal OUR land, Martins is ALLUDING to the Indian’s stirring speech.
Use of the allusion shows listeners that the business of stealing land is not new, and it also rouses us to join the resistance to colonization and land-grabbing of any kind.
ALLUSION IN YOUR CSEC POEMS
In Mervyn Morris’s poem Little Boy Crying, allusion is made to the story, Jack the Giant Killer. The speaker in the poem is the father of the little boy who is crying because he has just been smacked for playing in the rain. The father imagines that the boy sees his father as a ‘grim giant, empty of feeling’. The boy is so angry and frustrated (so the father imagines) that he would love to be like Jack the Giant Killer and deal with the ‘colossal cruel’ who has made him cry.
In this allusion, we have a mental picture of young Jack chopping down the bean tree, and the terrible giant falling to his death: the weak lad triumphs over the bully.
What is the effect of the allusion on the reader?
First, by drawing a parallel between the little boy and Jack, we get a sense of how big the ‘enemy’ is, and how unfair it is to be smacked by someone so big. So we feel sorry for the child. But as we think about it, we realize that the father is clearly the kind of dad who reads stories to his son, and can enter into his son’s emotions. So as well as feeling sorry for the child, we now also feel sorry for the father, who loves his son dearly but ALSO has to punish him on occasions.
Example 2 Sylvia Plath uses allusion in her poem Mirror. Most of you will be familiar with the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. In that story we meet the wicked queen who goes to her talking mirror every morning to ask it the question: “Who is the fairest one of all?”
Before Snow White turned up, the answer had always been, “You, oh Queen, are the fairest one of all.”
When the mirror starts to respond by saying that Snow White is now the fairest, the wicked queen goes berserk.
What is the effect of the allusion on the reader of Plath’s poem?
First, the reader responds emotionally to the talking mirror, who seems to be a really mean, uncaring individual. The mirror is so arrogant, so boastful about being completely truthful, that we actually hate him!! And of course we feel very sorry for the woman.
Just as in the fairy tale, the situation here is of a woman realizing she is getting older, and is no longer as lovely as she was: “In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman/Rises toward her…”
As we consider the contrast between the aging queen and the lovely young Snow White, we feel compassion for the woman who is losing her good looks. We are aware, too, how much importance society gives to our physical appearance, and how painful it is to be scorned because we are no longer physically attractive.
Thoughtful readers may even criticize the queen (and the woman in the poem) for being so dependent on the opinions of others. What do you think about that?
Example 3 Finally, you can find allusion in Gabriel Okara’s poem, Once Upon a Time. Those four words, as we all know, form the opening of every fairy tale. They take us into a magical world that belonged to our childhood.
What is the effectiveness of the repeated use of this allusion to fairy tale?
The speaker in the poem remembers what he USED TO BE like when he was a boy like his son. He remembers when his smile was genuine, and came from his heart. But as he has grown, he has moved from INNOCENCE to EXPERIENCE, and he has learnt to be as hypocritical and insincere as those around him. He imagines that his smile now looks like a snake’s fangs, and he longs to turn back the clock and become once again how he used to be. He wants to be the man he was ‘once upon a time’, but sadly those fairy tales are not real, are they?
The use of the allusion is effective because it focuses our attention on that innocent world of childhood and then shows us how sad the father is to realize that he has left that innocent world behind. We feel sorry for him and disappointed in the values of the society that he lives in.
WHO’S WHOSE? Here we look at some pairs of words that are easily confused. Select the correct word from each pair to fill the blanks in the sentences, and then check the bottom of the page for the answers and explanations.
RESPECTIVELY/RESPECTFULLY As he entered the doctor’s office, the elderly man tipped his hat……… and greeted her with a smile.
Myra Solomon and Meena Persaud won the Best Speaker Award and the Elocution Prize …………… ..
WEATHER/WHETHER I don’t know …………… .we will be able to put up the tent when we get there.
You see, for several weeks the ………………… ..has been really bad with quite heavy rain.
IMPLY/INFER When our pastor told us that “more labourers” were “needed in the vineyard”, do you think he was trying to ……………… ..that we ought to offer to help?
You came to fewer than half of the Spanish classes, and you were very late each time you came, so I can only ………… ..from your behaviour that you are not really interested in learning the language.
CHILDISH/CHILDLIKE You are fifteen now: far too big to be annoying everyone with such …………… ..pranks!
The poet Wordsworth urged his readers to try to retain an attitude of ………… ..wonder to the world around us; we should be delighted by rainbows and dew on cobwebs, just as children are.
Here are 15 words that are frequently misspelt. Ask someone to test you and see if you can spell all of them correctly. Check any new words in your dictionary. Write out any words that you couldn’t spell, and make sure they will never catch you again!
Strength, shepherd, rebel, repetition, grandeur, sarcasm, tragedy, simile, skeptical, opinion, destroy, destruction, guidance, emphasize, tendency.
Who’s/Whose 1 A respectfully—the elderly man was “full of respect”; B respectively (“in the order I just gave their names) A whether (means “if); B weather (rain, wind, snow) A imply (to drop a hint); B infer (to draw the conclusion) A childish (immature); B childlike (like a child in a positive sense— capable of innocence and wonder and trust). 2 3 4