Foreshadowing is putting an object, bit of dialogue, or an action into a scene which hints at something happening later in the story. To be effective, it needs to be subtle enough for readers to miss it; and when they come across what has been foreshadowed, they will think, “That’s right! In the beginning, the character said or did this.”
In the movie The Wizard of Oz, based on L. Frank Baum’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, there are a series of foreshadowing incidents in the beginning involving the farmhand characters (who, by the way, are not in the book).
- When Zeke rescued Dorothy after she fell into the pigpen, he gets sweaty and scared. Hickory says to him, “What’s the matter, you going to let a little, old pig make a coward out of you?” which foreshadows Zeke’s role as the Cowardly Lion in Dorothy’s dream.
- When Hulk tells Dorothy, “You’re not using your head about Miss Gulch. You’d think you didn’t have any brains at all,” and “Well, your head ain’t made of straw, you know,” he’s foreshadowing his role as the Scarecrow in her dream.
- When Hickory states, “Someday, they’re going to erect a statue to me in this town” he’s foreshadowing his role in Dorothy’s dream as the Tin Man. (Do you remember when Dorothy first came across the Tin Man? He was rusted in an erect, statue-like position.)
- When Dorothy sings, “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” she’s foreshadowing getting blown away by the tornado over the rainbow to Oz.
- The mentioning of the rainbow in the song is a foreshadowing of the color sequences which follow in the movie. (Do you remember that the portion before arriving in Oz was filmed in black and white?) There are probably several more foreshadowing incidents.
In my YA historical novel, Growing Up Victorian, seventeen-year-old Charlotte Wimpole in 1843 London explains to a new neighbor the passion her father has for one of his sons to become a writer. She says:
“I know my family is known as the literary Wimpoles of Hunter Street, but that is my father’s doing. He wants at least one of his sons to become a writer and has gone so far as to name my younger brothers after famous authors. Fenimore is named after James Fenimore Cooper, John for the Scottish novelist John Lockhart, and Shelley for the great poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. He makes them write stories, and they come to me for assistance; but my father would never tolerate a daughter for a writer as he despises women authors.”
A short while later, she adds to it with:
“I can understand a woman can write as well as a man, but my father cannot fathom it. I always thought it would serve him right if I turned out to be a namesake for some famous ‘Charlotte’ writer in the future.”
In this example, nothing is foreshadowed for Growing Up Victorian, but for literary history fans, it humorously foreshadows an event taking place four years after Charlotte spoke her sentiment. Charlotte Brontë published Jane Eyre in 1847. The readers “getting it” delight in imagining Charlotte’s father’s future repulsion at seeing the famous, female author-launch come to pass. Oh, sweet irony!