Allusion in Walden

Allusion Examples in Walden:

Economy 5

"and not detect the motes in his eyes..."   (Economy)

A "mote" is a tiny piece of substance or material. Thoreau is likely making an allusion to the biblical book of Matthew 7:5, which talks about the hypocrisy of people pointing out faults in others without looking at their own actions.

"Minerva..."   (Economy)

In Roman mythology, Minerva is the goddess of wisdom. She is also the sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy. In a contest of handiwork that Momus judged, she built a house but was criticized for not including wheels on it so that the inhabitant could get away from his neighbors if need be.

"Momus..."   (Economy)

In Greek mythology, Momus is a god of pleasure, satire, and mockery. This god featured in two of Aesop's Fables, one of which Thoreau references here: Jupiter told Momus to judge which house three different gods had made was the best. Momus was jealous of all, so he found fault with all of the houses.

"and that to retain it would be like keeping new wine in old bottles..."   (Economy)

Thoreau is referring to the biblical book of Matthew 9:17. In biblical times, "bottles" were fashioned from animal skins. Over time, the skin could become brittle, so if an old skin were filled with new wine, the wine would ferment, expand, and destroy the old skin, thereby not retaining any of the wine.

"the winter of man's discontent..."   (Economy)

This phrase may sound poetic, and in fact, it is. Thoreau is playing with William Shakespeare's original line from his play Richard III, in which King Richard expresses his feelings of discontent in a soliloquy, beginning with "Now is the winter of our discontent..." By stating that the winter was thawing, Thoreau paints a vivid image of how pleasant life at Walden Pond was for him in the beginning as he set about his experiment.

"chanticleer..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

While context in this sentence helps readers understand that "chanticleer" is a rooster, it is also an allusion to Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, and "The Nun's Priest's Tale" in particular. The proud, fierce rooster named Chanticleer dominates the barnyard.