Foreshadowing is a technique used by writers to hint to their readers what’s going to happen next in the plot. This is mainly to keep the reader interactive to keep them guessing what’s to come. Also when whatever the event being foreshadowed does come there is less of a shock to the reader so it doesn’t seem like it’s coming from left field, so to speak. Foreshadowing could be used at anytime throughout the story, in the beginning or at the end to show there’s another book coming, and is usually portrayed though symbolism, or sometimes dialogue (if you’re paying close attention to the way a character is speaking).
Foreshadowing through Dialogue
This is probably not as common as foreshadowing though symbolism, but if you pay close attention to what a character is saying, their dialogue could actually be quite telling. Take, for example, “Oedipus the King” and how Tiresias, the blind prophet, speaks to Oedipus about the murderer he seeks. He says,
“Revealed at last, brother and father both / to the children he embraces, to his mother / son and husband both – he sowed the loins / his father sowed, he spilled his father’s blood!
Go and reflect on that, solve that. / And if you find I’ve lied / from this day onward call the prophet blind” (520-526).
Of course Oedipus’ reaction is normal when he doesn’t believe what the prophet is saying that, not only is he the murderer he seeks, but that his mother and wife are one in the same. He refuses to believe it true and then he continues his search for the murderer; however one thing the prophet said, did bug him: the issue of his true parents.
Oedipus then goes on a journey to find out his true parents, but his wife begs him not to go. She says,
“Stop in the name of god, / if you love your own life, call off this search!” (1163-4).
Her speech is very telling here and foreshadows her knowledge of his death, if he continues to search for his true parents. Of course, it’s true that when he finds out the truth that Jocasta, his wife, is in fact his mother, Oedipus’ had his self-fulfilling prophecy come true and the play is ended in tragedy.
The prophet gave the readers a bit of information that would make anyone perk with curiosity. Why would he say that? Is it true? It foreshadowed the truth. And then Jocasta somewhat hints of her own knowledge of the situation. Why would she be so determined to stop him from searching for his parents, if she didn’t already think that maybe she had married her son. The same son that she had abandoned because there was a prophecy that he would marry his mother and kill his father. The fact that she is showing worry, indicates that she knew, which prompts the reader to put two and two together.
Foreshadowing with Symbolism
Symbolism is, perhaps, the most common way to foreshadow an event.
In the beginning of A Game of Thrones, the Stark family comes across a dead dire wolf and her live pups. Ned wonders what killed the beast and Robb points out that there is something in its throat. Ned pulls out a bloodied shattered antler (17-19).
To understand this example of symbolism and foreshadow, one would need to know that the house sigil of the Starks is the Dire Wolf, while the Baratheon’s house sigil is the Stag. Ned was ultimately brought down from House Baratheon.
Foreshadowing is a fun way to keep the reader engaged and fun for the writer to drop hints of what’s to come. It a good technique to prepare the readers so there is some sort of believability when the main events happen. Give the readers something to look forward to. For more information on foreshadowing and other writing techniques I recommend Writing Fiction For Dummies.
Martin, George R.R. A Game Of Thrones. New York: Bantam Books, 1996. Print.
Sophicles. “Oedipus the King.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. New York: Bedford, 1986. 1442-1484. Print.