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Allusion in Afterward

Allusion Examples in Afterward:

IV

2

"Cimmerian night...."   (IV)

The Cimmerians mentioned here likely references the Cimmerians (Greek Kimmerioi) of Homer’s Odyssey, a civilization portrayed as living in a dark, foggy land near the entrance to Hades, the Greek underworld. In the 1930s, Cimmeria and its darkness would be adopted as the homeland of literature’s Conan the Barbarian. Invoking Cimmerian darkness suggests that Mary is considering the possibility that Ned is dead, or beyond her reach for some reason.

"Sphinx-like guardian of abysmal mysteries, staring back into his wife’s anguished eyes as if with the malicious joy of knowing something they would never know!..."   (IV)

The Sphinx is a mythical creature made up of the body of a lion and the head of a human (sometimes also including the wings of a bird). Greek mythology based its own version of the Sphinx on that of the Egyptians’. While the Egyptian Sphinx was largely benevolent, the Greek version was known for asking difficult riddles. To answer wrongly was to die, and the Sphinx gave no hints to the correct answer. To compare England to the Sphinx suggests that Mary views it as a malicious secret-keeper that may be responsible for Ned’s potentially terrible fate.

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