Analysis Pages

Allusion in David Copperfield

Allusion Examples in David Copperfield:

Chapter 1 - I Am Born

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"the Ghost in Hamlet..."   (Chapter 1 - I Am Born)

This is an allusion to the ghost of Hamlet's murdered father who appears in Shakespeare's play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

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"Davy who?' said the gentleman. 'Jones?..."   (Chapter 2 - I Observe)

This is an allusion to a supernatural being, Davy Jones, who in sailors' folklore is a devil that lures sailors' to their deaths or wrecks their ships. Davy Jones's locker is an idiom for the bottom of the sea; being consigned to Davy Jones's locker is a euphemism for a sailor's dying by drowning.

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"Lazarus was raised up from the dead..."   (Chapter 2 - I Observe)

This is an allusion to the Gospel of John in the New Testament of the Bible that recounts a miracle performed by Jesus when he restored Lazarus to life after Lazarus had died and been in his tomb for four days.  

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"gentlefolks..."   (Chapter 3 - I Have A Change)

An allusion to those of high social status in England, noted for being refined and well-mannered, the result of good breeding and illustrious family traditions. 

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"Abraham in red going to sacrifice Isaac in blue, and Daniel in yellow cast into a den of green lions, were the most prominent of these..."   (Chapter 3 - I Have A Change)

A description of the scenes from the Bible as they appeared in the pictures. The passage alludes to the story of Abraham in the Book of Genesis in which God commanded him to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac, as a burnt offering to test Abraham's love of God; as Abraham was about to slay Isaac, thus proving his devotion to God, God intervened and stopped him from sacrificing Isaac. The allusion to Daniel in the lions' den refers to the story in the Book of Daniel in which Daniel, a devout man who prayed daily to God, was condemned for violating an edict issued by the ruler of Babylon; Daniel was thrown into a den of lions, and the door was sealed; Daniel was unharmed by the lions, having been protected by an angel sent by God. 

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"Aladdin's palace..."   (Chapter 3 - I Have A Change)

An allusion to a tale from "The Arabian Nights" in which a genie helps Aladdin, a poor boy, by granting Aladdin's wishes; Aladdin becomes wealthy and powerful, marries a princess, and the genie builds Aladdin a great palace that is more spectacular than the Emperor's palace.

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"Yarmouth Bloater..."   (Chapter 3 - I Have A Change)

This is an allusion to Yarmouth's history as a fishing town; a bloater is a large mackerel or herring, smoked and salted. 

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"Tom Pipes go climbing up the church-steeple; I have watched Strap, with the knapsack on his back, stopping to rest himself upon the wicket-gate; and I know that Commodore Trunnion held that club with Mr. Pickle, in the parlour of our little village alehouse..."   (Chapter 4 - I Fall Into Disgrace)

Allusions to various characters in the adventure books by Tobias Smollett that Davy reads.

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"Arabian Nights..."   (Chapter 4 - I Fall Into Disgrace)

An allusion to One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of stories and folk tales written in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age, dating from the eighth century.

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"Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, the Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Blas, and Robinson Crusoe..."   (Chapter 4 - I Fall Into Disgrace)

These are all allusions to protagonists in novels that were popular in Dickens' time.

  • Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, and Humphrey Clinker are characters in humorous adventure novels written by Scottish author Tobias Smollett.

  • Smollett also published a translation of Cervantes' Don Quixote and a translation of Lesage's *L'Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane. *

  • Tom Jones is the protagonist in a comic novel by Henry Fielding, *The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. *

  • *The Vicar of Wakefield, *by Oliver Goldsmith, was an enormously popular 18th-century novel; both humorous and melodramatic, it follows the lives of a country vicar and his family after the wealthy vicar loses all his money.

  • Daniel Defoe's *Robinson Crusoe *is a classic tale of adventures at sea.

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"there WAS a child once set in the midst of the Disciples..."   (Chapter 4 - I Fall Into Disgrace)

An allusion to Jesus and his disciples offered to satirize the Murdstones' attitude about children. 

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"the crocodile-book..."   (Chapter 4 - I Fall Into Disgrace)

An allusion to the book Davy used to read to Peggotty before his mother married Mr. Murdstone.

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"as poor as job..."   (Chapter 6 - I Enlarge My Circle Of Acquaintance)

As poor as Job, an allusion to the character in the Book of Job in the Bible; once a very wealthy man, Job loses all of his wealth as his love of God is tested.

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"Tartar..."   (Chapter 6 - I Enlarge My Circle Of Acquaintance)

An allusion to fierce nomadic warriors who joined Genghis Khan's army in the early thirteenth century. This national group largely resides within the territory of today's Russian Federation.

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"the adventures of Gil Blas..."   (Chapter 7 - My 'First Half' At Salem House)

This is an allusion to a novel by Alain-Rene Lesage where Gil Blas is a rascal but with honorable intent.

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"went to sleep under the shadow of the peacock's feathers to the sound of the flute..."   (Chapter 7 - My 'First Half' At Salem House)

An allusion to Davy's visiting the two old women at their house when he first met Mr. Mell.

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"We'll make some regular Arabian Nights of it..."   (Chapter 7 - My 'First Half' At Salem House)

An allusion One Thousand and One Nights, the collection of stories commonly known as *The Arabian Nights *that are told by Scheherazade, a clever young woman who entertains a murderous king and maintains his interest in her by telling him a story each night, beginning a story one night but not finishing it until the next, after which she begins a new story. After telling the king 1,000 stories in 1,001 nights, Scheherazade has remained alive long enough for the king to have fallen in love with her and for them to have had three sons together. Instead of killing Scheherazade, the king makes her his queen.

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"Gunpowder Plot..."   (Chapter 10 - I Become Neglected, And Am Provided For)

An allusion to the conspiracy, led by Guy Fawkes, to blow up the British Houses of Parliament in 1605.

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"Foxe's Book of Martyrs..."   (Chapter 10 - I Become Neglected, And Am Provided For)

First published in 1563 and reprinted in numerous editions, John Foxe's book recorded and depicted with illustrations the persecution and suffering of Christian martyrs throughout Western history, with an emphasis on the suffering inflicted on Protestants in England by the Catholic Church from the fourteenth century through the reign of Mary I. The book was embraced by English Puritans and attacked by Catholics; in Britain, it molded popular opinion about the Catholic Church for centuries.   

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"that I was 'a young Roeshus' - by which I think he meant prodigy..."   (Chapter 10 - I Become Neglected, And Am Provided For)

This is an allusion within an allusion. Barkis's calling Davy "a young Roeshus" is Barkis's mispronounced allusion to William Betty (Master Betty), a popular child actor in the nineteenth century who was considered a prodigy (a person with exceptional talents). Betty was often called "the Young Roscius," an allusion to Quintus Roscius Gallus, a Roman slave who had great talent as a mime. Roscius studied acting with his master's help, bought his freedom, and became a famous and very wealthy actor and orator who wrote a treatise on acting and oratory that was much admired. Cicero studied oratory with Roscius.

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"those demoniacal parchments which are held to have, once upon a time, obtained to a great extent in Germany..."   (Chapter 11 - I Begin Life On My Own Account, And Don't Like It)

An allusion to Faust's signing away his soul, giving it to the devil in exchange for everything Faust wanted in life.

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"Monument..."   (Chapter 11 - I Begin Life On My Own Account, And Don't Like It)

An allusion to the monument, a column 212' tall, that commemorates the enormous destruction in London caused by the Great Fire of 1666. 

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"jack's delight being his lovely Nan..."   (Chapter 11 - I Begin Life On My Own Account, And Don't Like It)

An allusion to "Lovely Nan," a song by Charles Dibdin (1745-1814), a British musician, songwriter, dramatist, novelist, and actor. 

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"Modern Babylon..."   (Chapter 11 - I Begin Life On My Own Account, And Don't Like It)

London; the allusion to Babylon refers to the ancient city described in the Bible as a center of sin and wickedness. 

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"Pantomimes..."   (Chapter 11 - I Begin Life On My Own Account, And Don't Like It)

An allusion to popular plays in England during the 1800s that were based on nursery rhymes.

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