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Foreshadowing is a literary device in which a writer gives an advance hint of what is to come later in the story. Foreshadowing often appears at the beginning of a story, or a chapter, and it helps the reader develop expectations about the upcoming events.

A writer may implement foreshadowing in many different ways, some of these ways include: character dialogues, plot events, and changes in setting. Even the title of a work or a chapter can act as a clue that suggests what is going to happen. Foreshadowing in fiction creates an atmosphere of suspense in a story, so that the readers are interested to know more.

This literary device is generally used is to build anticipation in the minds of readers about what might happen next, thus adding dramatic tension to a story. Moreover, foreshadowing can make extraordinary and bizarre events appear credible, as the events are predicted beforehand so that readers are mentally prepared for them. [1]

Misconceptions on Foreshadowing[edit]

Foreshadowing is often confused with other literary techniques, some of these techniques include:

1.) A "red herring", is a hint that is designed to mislead the audience. However, foreshadowing only hints at a possible outcome within the confinement of a narrative, and purposely leads readers in the right direction.

2.) A "flashforward" is a scene that takes the narrative forward in time from the current point of the story in literature, film, television, and other media.[2][3] Foreshadowing is sometimes employed through characters' explicitly predicting the future.[4]

By analogy to foreshadowing, the literary critic Gary Morson describes its opposite, sideshadowing.[5] Found notably in the epic novels of Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, it is the practice of including scenes that turn out to have no relevance to the plot. This, according to Morson, increases the verisimilitude of the fiction because the audience knows that in real life, unlike in novels, most events are in fact inconsequential, this "sense of structurelessness" invites the audience to "interpret and question the events that actually do come to pass".[6]

Examples of Foreshadowing in Literature[edit]

Example #1: Romeo and Juliet (By Robert Francis)[7]

“Life were better ended by their hate, Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love”

In the lines above, Romeo exclaims that he would rather risk his life for Juliet's love than live a long life and without it. Later in the story, just this happens, he ends up getting Juliet's love, but unfortunately, he ends up dying for it.

Example #2: Great Expectations (by Charles Dickens)

“Stormy and wet, stormy and wet; and mud, mud, mud, deep in all the streets. Day after day, a vast heavy veil had been driving over London from the East, and it drove still, as if in the East there were an Eternity of cloud and wind. So furious had been the gusts, that high buildings in town had had the lead stripped off their roofs; and in the country, trees had been torn up, and sails of windmills carried away; and gloomy accounts had come in from the coast, of shipwreck and death. Violent blasts of rain had accompanied these rages of wind, and the day just closed as I sat down to read had been the worst of all.”

In the lines above, Pip observes the weather before Magwitch’s arrival. Figurative language is used to describe the scenery in an ominous way. Just as the angry winds leave a trail of destruction in London, Magwitch’s disclosure opens a path of destruction in Pip’s life.

Example #3: Da Vinci Code (by Dan Brown)

Examples of foreshadowing are always found in mystery and detective stories, for example, in "Da Vinci Code", the character of Bishop Aringarosa constantly acts in such a suspicious way. This leads readers to suspect him to be the mastermind of the whole conspiracy in the church, his mysterious actions seemingly foreshadow the exposure of his crime in a later part of the narrative, but it is later revealed that he was innocent and not involved in any secret action. Characters like Bishop Aringarosa contribute to the mystery and suspense of the novel.

Example #4: Of Mice and Men (by John Steinbeck)

In John Steinbeck’s novel "Of Mice and Men", George kills Candy’s dog early in the novel, this killing foreshadows George killing Lennie, because Lennie is described as similar to the dog in many ways. Even the nature of the dog's death is similar to Lennie’s, as both are shot in the back of the head.

Example #5: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (by S. T. Coleridge)

“Her lips were red, her looks were free … Who thicks man’s blood with cold.”

The climax of ship’s misfortune is presented in this quote, the arrival of a ghostly ship causes the mariners to lose hope, and makes them scared of death. This indirectly foreshadows the crew's eventual demise, and it builds anticipation for what is about to happen next.

Example #6: The Highwayman (by Alfred Noyes)

“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees… Riding—riding— The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.”

The above lines are entirely filled with foreshadowing, the very first line calls wind “a torrent of darkness,” where darkness is a foreshadowing danger. The depiction of night and weather as ‘darkness’ foretells the coming of danger and misfortune for the crew members.


Examples of Foreshadowing in Movies[edit]

Example #1 The Wizard of Oz (by L. Frank Baum)

At the start of film, Miss Gulch transforms into a witch, scaring Dorothy off. Later in the movie, the Wicked Witch of the West torments Dorothy and her friends.

Example #2 Jaws (by Peter Benchley)

In Jaws, two characters talk about the fact that scuba tanks are combustible: "Yeah, that's real fine expensive gear you brought out here, Mr. Hooper." sneers Quint. "Course, I don't know what that bastard shark's gonna do with it. Might eat it I suppose." Later in the film, a shark bites the gear and is blown up.

Example #3 Fatal Attraction (by James Dearden)

Glenn Close’s character says, "Just bring the dog over... I'm great with animals and I love to cook." Later in the movie, Glenn kills a rabbit by cooking it.

Example #4 Avatar (by James Cameron)

In Avatar, Grace says, "I'd die to get a sample," referring to the Tree of Souls. Later in the movie she is wounded and is taken to the tree, after arriving, Grace says, "I should get a sample."

Example #5 Indiana Jones (by Steven Spielberg & George Lucas)

In The Last Crusade, when Donavan says that they are a few steps away from the Grail, Indy says, "that's usually where the ground falls out from underneath your feet." Soon after, there is an earthquake and the floor literally falls out from underneath them.



  1. ^ a b "Foreshadowing". Retrieved December 8, 2017. 
  2. ^ Ulrike Spierling; Nicolas Szilas (3 December 2008). Interactive Storytelling: First Joint International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling, ICIDS 2008 Erfurt, Germany, November 26-29, 2008, Proceedings. Springer. p. 156. ISBN 978-3-540-89424-7. 
  3. ^ flash-forward - definition of flash-forward by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia
  4. ^ Philip Martin, The Writer's Guide to Fantasy Literature: From Dragon's Lair to Hero's Quest, p 146, ISBN 0-87116-195-8
  5. ^ Morson, Gary Saul (Autumn 1998). "Sideshadowing and Tempics". New Literary History. 29 (4): 599–624. JSTOR 20057502. 
  6. ^ Calixto, Joshua (3 August 2015). "LET'S TALK ABOUT ROSA VAR ATTRE, THE IMPOSSIBLE ROMANCE OF THE WITCHER 3". Kill Screen. Retrieved 3 August 2015. 
  7. ^ Francis, Robert (2010). Romeo and Juliet. Deddington: Philip Allan Updates. ISBN 978-1444110357. 
  8. ^ "Foreshadowing Examples". Retrieved December 8, 2017.