Foreshadowing refers to the hints a writer gives a reader about what’s going to happen next. It’s a common literary device that’s used every day.
Instances of foreshadowing, which will be detailed below, usually appear at the beginning or the end of a poem, story, chapter, or entire book. There are any number of cues a writer could give a reader about what, positive or negative, is going to happen next.
In order to craft foreshadowing, a writer can use dialogue, a chapter title, obscure or obvious plot events, allusion, or changes in mood/tone. This technique is so popular because it creates an exception in the reader that something interesting is about to happen. It encourages them to continue reading and find out how events are going to play out. This is especially important in books as it might take a number of pages of rising action before the most important plot points make themselves known.
Examples of Foreshadowing in Poetry
But always there was one unbidden guest
Who cursed the child and left it bitterness.
In ‘A Fairy Tale’ a reader is treated to a fairytale-like story of tragedy, love, and growing up. Within the first stanza, she makes use of the two lines above, foreshadowing the presence of an evil, dark figure in the story. This “unbidden guest” is immediately on the reader’s radar and they’re going to be looking for any hint of their arrival.
Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.
Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men’s are, dead.
In the first stanza of this poem Owen makes use of foreshadowing as he suggests the fate of the soldiers who are traveling down “darkening lanes”. Through this oppressive imagery and the “grim” faces, a reader should be expecting these men to meet with a terrible fate.
Things are getting ready
out of sight.
In the second stanza of ‘The Moment’ Boland’s speaker refers to “Things” that are “getting ready / to happen”. These “things” are entirely mysterious at this point. But it refers to some kind of action or event in the future. It sets the reader up for an important turn or change. It is assisted by the skillful use of enjambment and the short structure of the lines.