This post was written because of my mutual love of both reading and Gilmore Girls. Seeing as there are many literary allusions in the show, and since I spend my life in a constant state of rewatching it, I decided to take a stab at exploring and making sense of some of these allusions. Unfortunately, I am not looking at all of them; there are so many allusions and simply not enough time to write about them all. Also, let's be honest: I haven't read all of the books that are alluded to (though I one day hope to as part of the "Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge"). These lists will appear in installments of ten references. I chose the allusions that I found most interesting. Black, White, & Read Books blog was used as a loose reference in compiling this list of literary allusions made throughout Gilmore Girls.
1. Jack Kerouac
To set the scene: Lorelai Gilmore is in Luke’s Diner, drinking her fifth cup of coffee for the day, when a guy walks over to them.
Random guy you’ll never have to worry about again after the first four minutes of this episode: Yeah, I’ve never been here before. Just, uh, passin’ through on my way to Hartford.
Lorelai: You’re a regular Jack Kerouac.
Although the Black, White, & Read Books blog credits this scenes as a reference specifically to On the Road, the most well-known of Jack Kerouac’s works, this book is never mentioned. Seeing as one of the most famous topics of all of Kerouac’s writing is travel, it is probable that Lorelai is just referring to Kerouac himself, rather than On the Road.
2. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
To set the scene: Rory is sitting in her 10th grade English class when the teacher tells the students to finish reading Huckleberry Finn or to start working on their paper.
Let’s speculate why the writers of this show chose this book over any other book. Is it because this is a book 10th graders would have to read in English class? Although it’s possible that’s the reason they selected this book, it is also possible to think about the deeper connection here. Considering the first episode as a whole, we as the viewers know that Rory is about to embark on a new adventure, leaving behind the comfort of Stars Hallow High for Chilton, the “unknown.”
3. Stephen King
To set the scene: Lorelai is telling Sookie about how much Chilton is going to cost her, and she is trying to think of how to come up with the money when Sookie recommends asking her parents for it.
Lorelai: There are several chapters from a Stephen King novel I would reenact before I’d resort to that option.
There is no book specifically alluded to here, but this is used to demonstrate just how much Lorelai dislikes her parents; it also shows the lengths she would go to just to avoid going to them for money for her daughter’s education. The horrifying nature of most Stephen King novels really helps exemplify this strained relationship between Lorelai and her parents.
4. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
To set the scene: Rory is packing up her old locker at Stars Hallow High when she meets Dean for the first time. She is picking up some of her books from the floor when she looks up and sees Dean standing over her quietly.
Rory: G-d! You’re like Ruth Gordon, just standing there with a tannis root. Make a noise.
Dean: Rosemary’s Baby.
Dean: Well, that’s a great movie. You’ve got good taste.
Although Dean takes this as an allusion to the movie, it is possible that Rory is referring to the book (knowing her deep love for literature). The fact that Dean understands Rory’s reference really seems to impress her, and thus we have the blossoming relationship between the two.
5. The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson
To set the scene: Rory and Lorelai are standing outside of the grandparents’ house for the first of the famous Friday Night Dinners. Lorelai is just staring at the door instead of knocking, not wanting to just go inside just yet.
Rory: So, do we go in, or do we just stand here reenacting The Little Match Girl?
Standing outside in the cold, hesitant to go inside, Lorelai’s negative feelings about her parents become increasingly obvious. This book Rory alludes to is about a girl that freezes to death outside one night. She is indicating that they had been waiting outside a long time already and she wants to know how much longer her mom plans on standing there.
6. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
To set the scene: It’s Rory’s first day at Chilton, and she and her mother sit in their car outside of the school looking at building and noting how menacing it looks with all the gargoyles and its gothic structure.
Rory: What are you looking at?
Lorelai: I’m just trying to see if there’s a hunchback up in that bell tower.
Lorelai is drawing a connection between Chilton’s style of architecture and the building in The Hunchback. The similarity gives Rory’s new school a gothic feel to it, making her even more nervous about her start at this school than she was before.
7. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
To set the scene: Miss Patty’s dance class is practicing ballet in her studio. All of the young girls have a copy of Harry Potter on their heads.
Miss Patty: Now, walk smooth. That’s the new Harry Potter on your heads. If they should drop, Harry will die, and there won’t be any more books.
I’m including this just because this is funny. It shows how popular Harry Potter was at the time as well as emphasizes Miss Patty’s sense of humor at trying to get kids to behave and follow instructions.
8. The Bible
To set the scene: Rory is going through her first day at Chilton, and she encounters a boy named Tristan who will only call her “Mary.” This happens repeatedly throughout the day.
Rory: They kept calling me Mary.
Lorelai: You’re kidding me. Wowwww, I can’t believe they still say that!
Rory: Why, what does it mean?
Lorelai: Mary, like the Virgin Mary. It means they think you look like a goody-goody.
Rory: You’re kidding.
Rory: Well what would they have called me if they thought I looked like a slut?
Lorelai: Well, they might have added a “Magdalene” to it.
Rory: Wow. Biblical insults. This is an advanced school.
When Rory is telling her mom about her less than enjoyable first day, she mentions this weird name swap. Her mom informs her that they were using biblical name-calling. Tristan had been calling her Mary to indicate that she seemed innocent, perhaps even prudish, like the Virgin Mary.
9. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
To set the scene: Rory and her grandfather are discussing gossip Rory overhears a few women chatting about at “the club” that they were golfing at.
Rory: It’s a conspiracy.
Richard: It’s Peyton Place.
Here, they are referring to the fact that this “club” that Rory’s grandparents are a part of, which contains only wealthy members of high social class, is, in fact, full of dirty secrets of its own. The novel that Richard mentions is about just that: a town that seems to be perfect but in actuality is full of all these secrets of scandal.
10. The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
To set the scene: Lorelai is helping Rory study for her upcoming English test. She asks Rory what year The Comedy of Errors was published and Rory provides the wrong answer, but Lorelai tells her she was close.
Rory: I was off by 75 years.
Lorelai: Well anything under 100 years is close.
Rory: What kind of rule is that?
This one is significant because in The Comedy of Errors, there are two twins estranged from each other. One twin is out all day and the other twin stumbles upon his brother’s house. His wife, Adriana insists that this twin is her husband (not knowing that her husband is a twin). The entire play is based off of appearances and Adriana’s conclusion that this twin is “close enough” to her own husband. For Lorelai, 75 years away is “close enough” of an answer. Here, she is likened to Adriana because she’ll take any answer (or man that looks like her husband) so long as she has a husband.