Allusions to Death and Nature

Part 1:

“Words are symbols for shared memories. If I use a word, then you should have some experience of what the word stands for. If not, the word means nothing to you.” ―Jorge Luis Borges, This Craft of verse (image courtesy of Touch surgery)

The book “A dirty job” is constructed based on a new view of death. The death is seen as a child who takes people life using the word “Kitten”, and the souls are captured in objects by the death merchants. The author relates the plot to many death beliefs and makes connections to the non-fictional word by using allusions. The author’s purpose is to relate this fictional view on death described in the book to the ones that people really believe in and to make us reflect on our own views on death. Below are some allusions used by the author in the book:

The Epic of Gilgamesh 

“Let Days be full of joy.
Love the child who holds your hand.
Let your wife delight in your embrace.”


Allusion to Carpe Diem (image courtesy of Wikimedia)

The Epic is about the life of the King of the Sumerian city-state of Uruk called Gilgamesh, who was part god and part man and made the city of Uruk flourish by building incredible temples, walls, and ziggurats. The reference to the Epic in the epigraph introduces one of the main ideas of the book, which is death being unavoidable and its time set by destiny, so this allusion brings up the importance of living a good life, Just like the king Gilgamesh who had a life full of pleasures and built a legacy. We can see that the part of the epigraph (above) advises people to have days full of joy because the death is part of the destiny and we never know when it’s the time to let go of our lives.


The Tibetan book of death 

This ancient text  is a type of guide for the deceased during the state between the death and the rebirth, which is called Bardo and takes 49 days in which a person is freed from the body to create their own reality until the next life. The Bardo is a gap between two lives of a soul. For instance, in the book “A Dirty Job”, the soul of the deceased takes a maximum of 49 days to be captured in the soul’s vessel and do the passage to another person, which is told by Minty Fresh in his conversation with Charlie. This allusion is important to help Charlie understand the chronogram of his job as a death merchant. These 49 days are mentioned many times and appear when Charlie couldn’t get the soul of a woman inside the 49 days and her soul failed to make the transition to another person and ended up going to the underworld, where it has no meaning or purpose, it became darkness and emptiness.

The Egyptian book of death 

This book is a collection of spells that have the power to make the soul of the dead navigate to the afterlife. In the Egyptian book of death, it’s believed that the soul is pleased with rewards and continue to the afterlife if they lived a life of virtues. The book makes this allusion pointing out the fact that a life with a meaning could guarantee you a soul. On page 89, the author says that Charlie doesn’t have a soul himself, meaning that the insignificance of his life didn’t guarantee him a soul, and he needed to be ready to carry one to the next level to be able to get it. In the book, the transition of the soul to the afterlife is made by people who are ready to carry it to another level, while in the Egyptian book of death this transition happens using spells.

Part 2:

“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” -Vicent Van Gogh

The beauty and the immensity of nature are not only pleasures for the soul, but also an incredible support for literature and art. Allusions are used in order to communicate to another person using their own empirical references. When an author uses an allusion to nature in poetry his purpose is to kindle the imagination of the reader setting an image to the text. This image arises from the life experience of the reader, like places he has been, stories he has heard or even the knowledge he has gained throughout his life. Below are some allusions to nature and how they could help the communication between individuals:


“Yggdrasil” (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Yggdrasil is an enormous mythical tree connecting the worlds in the Norse cosmology. Its roots are deep in the earth, the trunk is above the land, and the branches reach towards the sky. It’s the link between all the living elements to the supernatural beings and connecting their existence just like a tree has the roots, trunk and benches connected and one nourishing the other. Saying that someone is the Yggdrasil of their house means that this person connects the whole family and is always trying to integrate all the family member. This person creates a connection between their relatives just like the Yggdrasil tree connects the elements of the different worlds.

The Serpent in the Garden of Eden

“Tree of knowledge of good and evil and the Serpent” (image courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons)

According to the Bibble, God created Adam and Eve representing the human kind. they were sinless and had no evil in them. They got put in the Garden of Eden which had a gate to leave that was the act of eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil because eating it was an act of rebellion against God’s will. Once there was a serpent by the tree trying to convince them to eat the forbidden fruit. This serpent represents the voice of temptation trying to seduce Adam and Eve. when we say that someone is like the Serpent in the Garden of Eden it means that this person tries to corrupt others, they are bad influences to other individuals and have the power to convince and deprave. For instance, we can say that corrupt politicians are like serpents in the garden of Eden because they have the power and influence to seduce other politicians to become corrupts as well.

Allusions represent an expectation of the author that the reader owns enough knowledge to get a particular idea from the allusion and deduce the importance of this connection to the text. The allusions are not only a good literary device, but also makes us aim to develop our understanding of the world increasing the spectrum of connection we can trace from an allusion.

A/N: In the “Epic of Gilgamesh” part of the blog post I made an allusion to “Carpe Diem”, now it’s your turn! Could you spot the allusion? How does that connect to the idea of the epic and the book “A Dirty Job”?