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The Role of Allusion in the Sun, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the Catcher in the Rye

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Never affirm. Always Allude. Allusions are made to test the spirit and probe the heart” (Umberto Eco). Allusions are necessary because it allows for authors to include a deeper meaning to their message indirectly, allowing the reader to interpret the message for themselves. Allusions are used on the assumption that the reader and author have shared knowledge about a certain subject such as one’s culture, literature, or history. In the books of Men In The Sun by Ghassan Kanafani, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, and The Catcher In The Rye by J.D Salinger the authors incorporate Allusions to allow the reader to understand why certain things are the way and expand on the author’s message making them beneficial to a story.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey goes through the lives of the patients of a psychiatric hospital in Oregon. The author uses situations in the story to allude to the New Testament of the Bible. For instance, “Now he’s nailed against the wall in the same condition they lifted him off the table for the last time, in the same shape, arms out, palms cupped, with the same horror on his face.” (Kesey 12) This quote depicts that the author is alluding to the Christian figure of Jesus christ by describing Ellis as “nailed against the wall”. According to the New Testament of the Bible Jesus Christ came to Earth to die on a cross with nails in his hands for everyone’s sins. Although, while everyone may not know the story of Jesus Christ specifically Kesey alludes to Jesus Christ to give a better understanding to people who may know the Bible or have generally heard about the story of Jesus Christ. This allusion gives something for people to understand what the story is about in another way indirectly without the author explaining it.

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Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger follows the life of Holden Caulfield, the protagonist who is very rebellious and deals with the issues of growing up and loss of innocence. The author uses these issues to allude to a poem that allows the reader to understand what is in Holden’s mind. For example, “And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff--I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them” (Salinger 93). The author is alluding to the poem 'Comin' Thro the Rye,' by Robert Burns. Comin Thro The Rye is a poem about a man meeting a woman in a field of rye. In the text, Holden is talking to Phoebe about his interpretation of the poem but he gets the lyrics wrong. Holden thinks that the lyric is “If a body catch a body comin' through the rye” (Salinger 93) and Pheobe corrects Holden and says that it is “If a body meet a body coming through the rye!' (Salinger 93). He interprets that the poem is about innocence and childhood. The kids falling off of the cliff represents the transition from childhood to adulthood and Holden is there to protect the children from losing their innocence and becoming adults. The message the author is trying to convey is that Holden is having difficulty with becoming an adult. When Salinger alludes to “Comin thro the rye” he is depicting why Holden holds on to his childlike ways. Holden sees that there is a lot of responsibility and loss of innocence with becoming an adult and he dislikes the idea of growing up. Also, he believes that it is his job to protect all the children from growing up. This gives a deeper understanding of the author’s message.

Allusions allow the reader to have a better understanding of the author’s message in the story. While everyone may not understand allusions, it is beneficial to a reader in understanding one’s culture, literature, or history In Kesey’s book, allusions benefit the reader because it provides a correlation and allows the reader to see the story differently from what the reader just read. This is also displayed through Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, where the author’s allusions benefit the reader in understanding why Holden does not like the idea of growing up, therefore giving a deeper understanding of the story. Overall, Allusions are a useful way for authors to uniquely provide a deeper meaning creating connections with the audience reading the story.

Works cited

  1. Salinger, J.D. “The Catcher in the Rye.” The Catcher in the Rye PDF, www.uzickagimnazija.edu.rs/files/Catcher%20in%20the%20Rye.pdf.
  2. Kesey, Ken. “One Flew over the Cukoo's Nest.” One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest PDF, www.somersetacademy.com/ourpages/auto/2015/9/29/56608819/cuckoos%20nest.pdf.
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The Role of Allusion in the Sun, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the Catcher in the Rye. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-role-of-allusion-in-the-sun-one-flew-over-the-cuckoos-nest-and-the-catcher-in-the-rye/
“The Role of Allusion in the Sun, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the Catcher in the Rye.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-role-of-allusion-in-the-sun-one-flew-over-the-cuckoos-nest-and-the-catcher-in-the-rye/
The Role of Allusion in the Sun, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the Catcher in the Rye. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-role-of-allusion-in-the-sun-one-flew-over-the-cuckoos-nest-and-the-catcher-in-the-rye/> [Accessed 2 Mar. 2024].
The Role of Allusion in the Sun, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the Catcher in the Rye [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2024 Mar 2]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-role-of-allusion-in-the-sun-one-flew-over-the-cuckoos-nest-and-the-catcher-in-the-rye/
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