Foreshadowing in Literature Defined
Foreshadowing in literature is hints given by the author of what will happen later. To demonstrate mastery of foreshadowing in literature, students must achieve four levels of understanding:
- They must be able to define foreshadowing - Level 1 is simple memorization. It is possible for students (or even a really smart monkey) to recite the definition without understanding it.
- Students should be able to identify foreshadowing - Level 2 eliminates the monkey. It shows the ability to apply the definition in a literary setting. Any high school student can do this with a bit of practice. Identification, however, falls short of mastery.
- Students should be able to substantiate predictions based on the author’s clues. Level 3 is really close to mastery. It requires high level thinking, even if the predictions are wrong. It falls short of mastery insomuch that the skill is only relevant as it pertains to a specific story
- Students should be able to determine the author’s purpose in using the foreshadowing - Level 4 indicates mastery of foreshadowing in literature. The ability to analyze author’s purpose facilitates critical thinking and will help individuals make sense of advertising, political speeches, editorials, and news reports. In short, knowing what the author’s purpose is will help them make informed decisions.
Short Stories for Teaching Foreshadowing in Literature
The following short stories contain foreshadowing examples and, more importantly, delight young readers. For each short story, I’ve provided at least one foreshadowing example.
- “The Birds” by Daphne Du Maurier begins “On December the third the wind changed overnight and it was winter.” The story’s protagonist remarks, “there are more birds about than usual…And daring. Some of them taking no notice of the tractor. One or two gulls came so close to my head this afternoon I thought they’d knock my cap off” (52). Creepy. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something bad is going to happen and the birds are part of it, especially if your copy of the story has a picture of several birds tearing apart a human being. A good lesson includes students listing foreshadowing examples that contribute to the ominous mood.
- Practically any short story by Edgar Allen Poe includes foreshadowing. For example, “The Cask of Amontillado” begins, “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured on insult I vowed revenge” (6). I don’t know exaclty what’s going to happen to Fortunato, but I guess it will be unpleasant. Here is an excellent teaching suspense lesson plan that incorporates foreshadowing.
- Hamlin Garland’s “Return of a Private” notes early on that “There were no hands greeting them at the station, no banks of gayly dressed ladies waving handkerchiefs and shouting “Bravo”” (112). The reader knows by page one that these privates returning home from the Civil War are in for a rough adjustment, drawing the reader’s attention to war’s frivolity and the futility of war zeal.
- Eckles asks, in Ray Bradbury’s “The Sound of Thunder,” “Does this safari guarantee I come back alive?” The reply: “We guarantee nothing!” There’s a good chance, based on this example of foreshadowing, that Eckels might get a little more than he bargains for on his safari. Try this making predictions lesson plan to help teach foreshadowing.
Foreshadowing Examples: Works Cited
My examples of foreshadowing in literature come from the following:
Bradbury, Ray. “The Sound of Thunder.” The Language of Literature. Chicago: Macdougall Littell. 2002, pp 72-81.
Du Maurier, Daphne. “The Birds.” Literature: Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. 2002, pp.51-82.
Garland, Hamlin. “The Return of a Private.” Main-Travelled Roads. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1995, pp. 112-129.
Poe, Edgar Allen. “The Cask of Amontillado.” Literature: Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. 2002, pp. 6-12.
Lorcher, Trenton. His Brain. Several Readings and Multiple Teachings of The Great Gatsby from 1998 - Present.
Public Domain Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
This post is part of the series: More Short Story Suggestions
Teach the elements of literature by teaching great short stories.