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Allusion in My Ántonia

Allusion Examples in My Ántonia:

Book I - Chapter VI

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"the bush that burned with fire and was not consumed...."   (Book I - Chapter VI)

This line is an allusion to the biblical story of Moses in the book of Exodus. In that story, God appears to Moses in the form of a bush that burns and is not consumed, proving the divine nature of the vision and God’s subsequent instructions.

"Dives in torment,..."   (Book I - Chapter XIV)

This is an allusion to a rich man named Dives from a biblical story in the Gospel of Luke. In the parable of Dives and Lazarus, a wealthy man and a beggar both die. However, the beggar ascends to heaven while the wealthy man, who did not show any generosity in life, is sent to hell to live in torment. Dives is latin for “wealthy man.” When Jim recalls the parable, he notes the differences between Mr. Shimerda and Dives and refuses to believe that Mr. Shimerda had truly been condemned to torment for ending his own life.

"“it will be a matter of years to pray his soul out of Purgatory, and right now he's in torment.”..."   (Book I - Chapter XIV)

In Catholicism, it is believed that the soul goes to an in-between place of torment called purgatory before it reaches heaven. The duration of the soul’s stay in purgatory is based on the weight of its sins, since purgatory exists in order to purify the soul so that it can enter heaven—a concept explored in Dante’s Purgatory. The deceased’s family and friends can shorten their duration in purgatory by offering prayers, attending masses, and burning candles. For Catholics, suicide is considered a mortal sin, so Mr. Shimerda’s family will need to pray for “a matter of years” before his soul will be free from purgatory.

"inquisitions..."   (Book I - Chapter XV)

An “inquisition” is similar to a trial, in which an interrogator examines a suspect through a series of severe question. The most infamous inquisition is the Spanish Inquisition, and this is an allusion to that event, which took place in Europe from the Middle Ages until it was officially ended by decree in 1834. During the Inquisition, many people, specifically religious minorities, were tortured and killed because of supposed heresy. The fact that the Norwegians refuse to allow Mr. Shimerda to be buried on their land because of his Catholicism and his suicide showcases the religious conflicts that took place between the different groups in the West. Mrs. Burden alludes to the inquisition as a way of condemning the exclusionary treatment and plans to open a more “liberal-minded” plot in the future.

"Dante's veneration for Virgil...."   (Book III - Chapter I)

The Italian poet Dante Aligheri (1265–1321) is best known for writing the three-part narrative poem The Divine Comedy. Over the course of the poem, Dante travels through hell, purgatory, and heaven. For his journey through hell and most of purgatory, Virgil serves as Dante’s guide, establishing a strong link between the first and second parts as well as highlighting Dante’s admiration for Virgil, which Cleric and Jim discuss. The relationship between Dante and Virgil is one of student and mentor, which echoes the dynamic between Jim and Cleric.

"“the bride of old Tithonus”..."   (Book III - Chapter I)

In Roman mythology, Aurora (Eos, in Greek), the goddess of the dawn, fell in love with a mortal man named Tithonus. He was granted imperfect immortality, living forever but still aging. Cleric watching “The bride of old Tithonus” rise out of the sea is a metaphor for watching the sun rise. This characterizes Cleric as worldly and knowledgeable about Roman traditions and mythology and as someone who enjoys flaunting it. In contrast to the wisdom that comes from living on a farm, Cleric introduces Jim to “the world of ideas” and helps him see life differently.

"Muse..."   (Book III - Chapter II)

In Greek Mythology, nine Muses were thought to embody and inspire the arts. They were daughters of Zeus and were often invoked by artists at the start of epic poems, histories, or songs. As Cleric lectures about what it would mean to “bring the Muse” into the country, Jim reflects on their relationship and Cleric’s personal investment in the concept. For Cleric, who idolizes Virgil and talks in poetic metaphors, academia and the world of ideas is home. However, despite Jim’s induction into the world of scholarly pursuits, it is the simple pleasures of his home and Antonia that call to him.

"Traviata”..."   (Book III - Chapter III)

La Dame aux Camelias, meaning “the lady with the Camellias” and often shortened to Camille, is an 1848 novel and play by Alexandre Dumas. “La Traviata” is an opera adapted from Dumas’s work by Giuseppe Verdi in 1853. Jim and Lena go to Camille together and are mutually impacted by the tragic love story between the courtesan Marguerite, the titular lady with the Camellias, and a naive young man named Armand. Jim looks on Lena with pride and genuinely enjoys spending time with her because she is easygoing and reminds him of home. He also notes her independent nature as she refuses to allow for others to pay her way.

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