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What Does the Literary Device 'Foreshadowing' Mean

Let's Discuss What the Literary Device 'Foreshadowing' Means

Foreshadowing, a literary method won its popularity, due to the hints, suspense, and its capability to engage readers throughout the play. This Penlighten article will tell why you are glued to the book until it concludes with an idea.
Vaishali Satwase
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2018
In literature, a writer focuses on the creative use of language on purpose to bring out the desired result for its readers. The writer intentionally drops some hints, clues, or doubts at the beginning of the play; this is known as 'Foreshadowing'. It means this is one of the reasons why a person is hooked up and awaits for the end of the play! Also peculiar clues at the beginning of the play elevate the curiosity. Don't you stop at the title of a novel or movie and think what it should be about? Yes, a writer can set foreshadowing right from its title, so the title makes you think and opt for it.
Foreshadowing conceals the main theme that is supposed to be disclosed at the end. In this way, a writer gets an opportunity to create a well-developed plot. He can jot down some notes on the very first page of the novel and start a series of tales with unexpected twist event. It is one of the figures of speech used by poets and writers to keep their readers enticed.
Many times the writer uses a style where a character predicts future happenings such as divine spirits, omens, witches, ghosts, fortune tellers, or prophets. This way the indirect clues comprehend the meaning of the story. E.g. In William Shakespeare's play, 'Hamlet', the spirit of King Hamlet appears in the beginning of the play narrates to his son, Prince Hamlet, about his brutal murder by his brother and wife.
The play is well-known for the chaos created as 'to be or not to be.' The literary device "foreshadowing" in this play is initialized by the spirit of King Hamlet. What the spirit of his father tells is believed by him, but it is impossible to prove it and punish the culprits, so finding all these clues enables them to construct a play of 5 acts!
Types of Foreshadowing
There are many types of foreshadowing used in the literature. In direct foreshadowing, prophets, fortune tellers, omens tell what will happen in the fiction and the play proceeds accordingly. If you've read ancient plays, you will understand that the writers used to give away the end in the beginning like in preface or prologue. E.g. In the Oedipus by Sophocles, the prophet told the king that his son would kill him and marry his own mother. Therefore, the king send his baby son faraway from his kingdom, but anyhow the son came back the prophecy proved true.
While subtle foreshadowing is noticed in contemporary plays that allows writer to plant a clue, and arrange the sequences accordingly. Whatever confusion, doubt, symbolism, flash-forward, or hints are pointed, should be sorted out at the end. Thus, it matters why, how, and what you are foreshadowing. Your writing should be well-organized to create the latter part of the story more clear, interesting, and narrative. If you are able to maintain the balance, then congratulations, you will prove to be a good writer.
If you want to be different, try red-herring method, wherein you can highlight few hints in the beginning, but you end up with something unexpected. Such method can be used in detective, mystery, or suspense stories.
Foreshadowing can be misleading for the readers at times. If you miss on something that you've narrated in the beginning, the audience will not be keen on reading or watching it further. Though the clue and its revelation needs to be a little bit challenging as well as engaging, but not easy to spoil the end. Please keep in mind that being a writer, you should neither plant the things that are not going to happen nor kill the plan before the time.
On a positive note, planting a clue in the beginning will make the audience prepared for the upcoming events and even let them try their own guesses. It keeps them engaged throughout the movie or story. When the writer clears out the clue at the end, the audience will not be surprised, but rather they will justify the clue, because they are already into it. Thus, this creative piece gives audience stimulus to relate to the movie more than just being its part passively. Do you remember, how many times you or your friends must have screamed while watching movie, 'Yes, I know that, it will happen' or 'It is true see, I've already told you'.
Thus, foreshadowing method holds tips to judge a fiction or a play in its initial stage and ends with amusement. Isn't it a good way of not giving everything at once, but into parts? And of course, you're good at sharing!
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