Foreshadowing Definition, Examples of Foreshadowing, and How to Use Foreshadowing in Your Writing


Foreshadowing​: a literary tool that uses hints in a story to tell what is about to happen in the action.

  • For example, a dark or eerie setting could foreshadow something foreboding that happens in a story.
  • Along with this, an author could hint that a character might become ill by having other characters talk about it. Often, authors show a character's trait early in a story, such as being impulsive, that will become integral to the plot towards the end.

Where can I find foreshadowing in movies and literature?

  • Movies
    • You can see that in the movie ​Midsommor​, there is a tapestry that outlines the whole movie, therefore foreshadowing what is going to happen to the characters and plot.
    • In the movie ​Sixth Sense​, Cole Sear explains to child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe how he sees dead people, however, the dead people are unaware that they have passed. It is revealed in the end that Dr. Malcolm Crowe is one of those people.
    • Lastly, in the movie ​The Incredibles​, Mr. Incredible seeks a new costume design that included a cape from designer Edna Mode. Edna vehemently opposes, with her reasoning being that capes have a history of misfortunes. Edna's opposition foreshadows supervillain Syndrome's death caused by his cape becoming entangled in a jet turbine.
  • Literature
    • In Shakespeare's ​Romeo and Juliet​, Romeo says he prefers to die sooner than live without Juliet's love: "Life were better ended by their hate, Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love."
    • At the beginning of ​The Great Gatsby​, Tom foreshadows the tragedy to come when he describes the title character's quest to reach the green light without being able to take hold, then notes that Gatsby has disappeared into "the unquiet darkness." This sets the plot for Gatsby's ongoing quest for the unreachable that comes to a tragic end.
    • Lastly, in Shakespeare's ​Macbeth​, the witches are an omen of future bad things, foreshadowing the evil that is to come.
  • Titles
    • Famous for her mystery novels, author Agatha Christie's titles often foreshadow the events ready to unfold, with titles such as: ​Murder on the Orient Express​, ​Death on the Nile​ and ​Appointment with Death.

Types of Foreshadowing

Direct foreshadowing (or overt foreshadowing):​ It is evident in the story that there is an impending problem, event, or twist. This is accomplished by the characters' dialogue, narration commentary, a prophecy, or prologue.

Indirect foreshadowing (or covert foreshadowing):​ This is a less direct approach to hinting at a specific outcome, usually done by leaving subtle clues or hints. Readers won't usually realize the meaning until the event actually happens.

Why use foreshadowing?

Foreshadowing is used to create suspense, hint at specific outcomes and overall provide a reason for readers to keep reading or viewers to keep watching. Foreshadowing helps create tension in the plot of a story or movie, making it so the reader or viewer has to think and engage in discussion with others.

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