understand the reference. While readers may have to educate themselves in order to
understand the full meaning of allusions made in texts written in previous
eras, it is assumed that contemporaries of the author would be able to
discern such references. The use of allusion is particularly important in
historical fiction, such as The Secret Life of Bees, in which a modern author
chooses a particular historical time period as the setting of a novel, for
either educational or entertainment purposes.
Great literature is typically considered as such because it has universal
themes that transcend generations, or even centuries. But historical fiction
begs its readers not only to learn from these universal themes, but also to
immerse themselves in the chosen time period. Why? What could we
possibly learn from a storyline set in a time period so foreign to us? Why is
it important that the story of Lily Owens be set in 1964, or that the first
page of the novel begins the week of the passing of the Voting Rights Act? And if it is
important, how does Sue Monk Kidd so effectively make her readers feel as if they too were
walking around in that sweltering South Carolina summer that occurred more than forty five
Author Sue Monk Kidd
The answer, of course, is allusion. Kidd writes with such
conscientious attention to the detail of her setting that readers are
practically teleported to the time period. We can see it in the
description of the landscape—both natural and manmade. We
feel it in the oppressive heat experienced by characters cooling
themselves with paper fans decades before air conditioning
became a common household convenience. We taste the foods
of both the era and the region, as Kidd weaves specific product
names into vivid descriptions of... [continues]
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