Allusion in Self-Reliance

Allusion Examples in Self-Reliance:

Self-Reliance 8

"I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and consistency...."   (Self-Reliance)

This alludes to Newton’s Third Law that claims “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In this context, Emerson argues that people can look only within themselves to improve their own lives. No amount of money, machinery, or work can achieve progress, only the fact of knowing and being your most accurate, individual self. The passage makes use of parallelism, a rhetorical device in which multiple phrases are expressed in the same manner, even if they are contrary.

"There is no Lethe for this...."   (Self-Reliance)

In Greek mythology, Lethe is the river of forgetfulness which winds through the underworld. Emerson alludes to Lethe to make the point that once one grows up, one cannot forget the responsibilities and restraints of adulthood that have been thrust upon her. Notice how short this sentence is compared to the previous one. This noticeable variation in sentence length is a rhetorical device that emphasizes a point by surprising the reader.

"Paul..."   (Self-Reliance)

St. Paul the Apostle (10-67 CE) was an important early disciple of Christianity. Also known as “Apostle to the Gentiles,” Paul converted to Christianity when Christ revealed Himself in a vision while Paul was on the road to Damascus. Paul's vast writings and teachings contribute to the foundation of Christian belief and practice.

"David..."   (Self-Reliance)

David (Hebrew for “Beloved One”) was the second king of Israel. He was also a poet, musician, and author. He wrote much of the Book of Psalms. As a young shepherd, David defeated Goliath with a sling and stones.

"Judas..."   (Self-Reliance)

According to the New Testament, Judas Iscariot was one of Jesus’s twelve disciples. He betrayed Jesus by revealing his location to the Roman Empire for thirty silver coins. The Roman Empire then nailed Jesus to the cross.

"Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other..."   (Self-Reliance)

This alludes to Newton’s Third Law that claims “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In this context, Emerson argues that people can look only within themselves to improve their own lives. No amount of money, machinery, or work can achieve progress, only the fact of knowing and being your most accurate, individual self.

"Plutarch's heroes..."   (Self-Reliance)

Plutarch (46–119 CE) was a Greek biographer whose work contributed to the popularity of essay and biographical writings in Europe beginning in the 16th century. His two most famous works are Bioi parallēloi, or Parallel lives (stories of Greek and Roman soldiers, government officials, and artists), and Moralia (a book of essays covering a wide variety of topics). Emerson uses this reference to show that although there have been great strides in all fields of study, the men Plutarch wrote about were all great even without all of those impressive strides to build upon.

"Leave your theory, as Joseph his coat in the hand of the harlot, and flee..."   (Self-Reliance)

This simile alludes to a story in the Old Testament, in which Jacob’s son Joseph goes to Egypt and is falsely accused of raping “the harlot” (the Pharaoh’s wife). She tries to use Joseph’s coat as evidence after he purposefully leaves it behind. The simile means that no matter what you are told to be true, the most important truths come from yourself and not from the mouths of others.