What is an allusion? Cinna was the stylist Katniss. It is likely that you missed out on the major allusion when you heard this name. Allusions are not about Katniss’s gem-covered dress, or the illusion of flames. It is a literary device that refers briefly and in an indirect manner to a historical figure, place, thing, or idea. The comment is meant to be a quick way of spotting the allusion in a text and understanding its significance (“Figurative language”). In order to understand characters or plots within a novel, allusions are most often used. In Thomas C. Foster’s novel How to Read Literature Like a Professor there were many allusions to Yann Marttel’s autobiography Life of Pi. We will discuss symbolic, historical, and situational ironic reference.
Foster integrates the symbolism message in literature, referring to Chapter 12 of How to Read Literature Like a Professor. In general, symbols have many possible interpretations and meanings. Foster says, “It includes, among other things, education attainment, gender and race, class, belief, social engagement, and philosophical interest.” These factors affect the clarity of understanding symbolism as they contain diverse examples to which a reader can relate based on personal history and prior readings.
This is similar to an example that was mentioned at the very beginning of Life of Pi. Pi and Ravi, his brother, went exploring in Munnar. Munnar is located just across the border in Kerala. Pi was unintentionally led to three hills, which would serve as the symbol of the three major religions. “…each hill featured a different Godhouse. “…on each stood a Godhouse” (Martel). The hills in this case are a symbol of the many religions Pi practices. Martel doesn’t miss a beat in claiming that Pi has to keep climbing the hills repeatedly, likely because of his journey. The text conveys conflict as Pi develops a connection to all these religions. It’s like a “competition”, claiming whose religion is “righteous” and best suited to serve their idolism. Pi and Darwin both share the same idea in terms of their struggle with their ideas. Darwin was raised in a conservative home, but he always remained open minded. He was never satisfied with his life. Pi is never able to follow his Hindu religion in a responsible manner.
Foster uses figurative terminology to compare reading to “those elementary-school papers where you have to connect the dots.” The use of literature in this case is to create patterns which show recurring themes throughout the book. Pi’s journey begins in India and ends with a series unfortunate events as his ship sinks because of uneven seas. James Cameron’s well-known film Titanic is compared to this allusion. The ship in this movie sinks due to a problem that they encounter when they hit an iceberg. Martel’s and Foster’s depiction is a different form of literary art that shows references to the past.
Situational irony, another literary factor that is interrelated with Pi, is also a factor to consider. In literature, there are many rivers, oceans, roads and other features that act as paths. In the literature, there are many roads and rivers that we can travel. E. M. Forster authored A Passage to India in 1910 and Howards Ende (1910) during the twentieth Century. The second book is about class differences and the value of individuals. Leonard Bast’s character is a working-class man who has a strong desire to improve himself. Reading books helps him to gain more knowledge. He also gains closer relationships with the people in higher classes. As a result, his ascent was slowed down and he died. It is ironic that the death of Leonard came about in this way. Leonard is seen laying on the floor, surrounded by the books he had piled up.
Pi’s relativeness conveys irony by expressing situational irony. He explains this in detail below. Richard Parker calmed [him] up. It’s ironic that the character who started off by scaring [him] to death is now the one that brings him peace, meaning, [he] even dares to claim wholeness. Richard is usually seen as a dangerous animal by people, because of its wild nature. Pi struggled with many issues while stranded on the sea, including: a lack in resources, no contact with anyone… Richard becomes a problem to him. In order to ensure his survival, he focused on the best way to deal with a large wild animal in his boat.
Allusions are a literary tool that helps readers make connections and understand context. Foster explains how to read literature from a blind-spotting perspective, whereas most people tend to only focus on one interpretation. Life of Pi is a great example of Martel’s ability to recall Pi from a variety of perspectives. He also makes many symbolic connections between Pi’s philosophical and symbol instances and Martel. It is only by embracing it that you will be able to truly enjoy the literature.