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Margaret Hamilton as Miss Gulch in The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Home Video

The presentation of details, characters, or incidents in a narrative in such a way that later events are prepared for (or "shadowed forth").

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • In the opening of The Wizard of Oz, set in Kansas, the transformation of Miss Gulch into a witch on a broomstick foreshadows her reappearance as Dorothy's enemy in Oz.

  • The witches in the opening scene of Shakespeare's Macbeth foreshadow the evil events that will follow.

  • "Foreshadowing can be, in fact, a form of 'backwriting.' The writer goes back through the copy and adds foreshadowing to prepare the reader for later events. . . .

    "This does not mean that you are going to give away the ending. Think of foreshadowing as setup. The best foreshadowing is subtle and is woven into the story--often in multiple ways. In this fashion, foreshadowing helps build tension and gives resonance and power to the story."
    (Lynn Franklin, "Literary Theft: Taking Techniques From the Classics." The Journalist's Craft: A Guide to Writing Better Stories, ed. by Dennis Jackson and John Sweeney. Allworth, 2002)

  • Foreshadowing in Nonfiction
    - "With nonfiction, foreshadowing works well, so long as we stay with the facts and not impute motivation or circumstance that never happened. . . . No 'he should have thought . . .' or 'she might have expected . . .' unless we back it up factually."
    (William Noble, "Writing Nonfiction--Using Fiction." The Portable Writer's Conference, ed. by Stephen Blake Mettee. Quill Driver Books, 2007)

    - "[Alexandra] David-Neel's seven chapters [in My Journey to Lhasa: The Classic Story of the Only Western Woman Who Succeeded in Entering the Forbidden City] describe harrowing travel to Thibet* and Lhasa. She creates suspense with present tense, 'we look as if we are starting for a mere tour of a week or two,' and foreshadowing, 'these spoons became, later on, the occasion of a short drama in which I nearly killed a man.'"
    (Lynda G. Adamson, Thematic Guide to Popular Nonfiction. Greenwood Press, 2006)

    * variant spelling of Tibet

  • Chekhov's Gun
    "In dramatic literature, [foreshadowing] inherits the name Chekhov's Gun. In a letter he penned in 1889, Russian playwright Anton Chekhov wrote: 'One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.' . . .

    "Foreshadowing can work not only in narrative forms, but also in persuasive writing. A good column or essay has a point, often revealed at the end. Which details can you place early to foreshadow your conclusion?"
    (Roy Peter Clark, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. Little, Brown, 2006)
Pronunciation: for-SHA-doe-ing

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