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The Use of Allusion in Poetry

            When writing a poem, an author often uses allusion to enrich the text - calling on noteworthy figures, ideas, or events that emphasize the poem's deeper meaning. This use of allusion is often double-sided, with allusion being used positively as a more direct comparison, as well as in the form of irony, helping the reader draw out the meaning of the text through understated contrasts. Both "A Study of Reading Habits," by Philip Larkin and "Constantly Risking Absurdity," by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, employ allusion, however in "A Study of Reading Habits" Larkin alludes with a sense of irony while in "Constantly Risking Absurdity," the poet does not. .
             In "A Study of Reading Habits," Philip Larkin uses an allusion to cheap fiction throughout the poem in order to draw the contrast between the speaker's adolescence and adulthood, illustrating how over time the speaker could no longer find escape in fiction as it soon becomes his reality. Immediately into the poem, Larkin writes "[w]hen getting my nose in a book/Cured more things short of school", revealing how through reading he was able to find remedy to his troubles. He then follows with "It was worth ruining my eyes," which inevitably does occur as he illustrates himself with "inch-thick specs" in the second stanza. As he transitions into the second stanza, the speaker begins to shift into a darker stage of his life not only in his preference of literature but seemingly in his reality as well. Saying, "Evil was just my lark:/ Me and my cloak and fangs/ Had ripping times in the dark". In the final stanza, the speaker's allusion becomes apparent as he calls on the themes of cheap fiction to show what he has inevitably become, writing "[d]on't read much now: the dude/ who lets the girl down before/ The hero arrives, the chap/ who's yellow and keeps the store,/Seem all too familiar.

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