Last Updated 28 Jan 2021

The Effective Literary Form of Foreshadowing

Category Short Story, Writer
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O’Connor effectively uses the literary device of foreshadowing to create an atmosphere of suspense for a family that is doomed. There are several hints that point to the fate of the family in both the overall theme of a world of change and chaos and in specific lines from the text. Death and doom are frequently discussed and certain descriptive phrases, as early as the first sentence lead a reader to believe that doom is impending. Specifically the grandmother and her choices and her description of choices all contribute to the foreshadowing.

Her choice of dress and her reasons given for that is one example, as is the cat she chooses to bring and the animal’s role in the final event that leads to the death of the family. The Grandmother’s choice to take the dirt road and her mistake of direction is the final example of the foreshadowing that can be contributed to the reader’s sense of an almost inevitable and negative end. Firstly, the Grandmother does not wish to go on the trip, but agrees to go with certain pretenses. She refuses to leave her beloved cat at home while the family goes on their trip.

The cat, “Pitty Sing”, is hidden in a basket as the Grandmother fears that the cat may die. O’Connor writes, “she was afraid he might brush against one of the gas burners and accidentally asphyxiate himself. Her son, Bailey didn’t like to arrive at a motel with a cat” (1135-1136). Her mention of both death and the inconvenience that bringing the cat would impose on the family shows both foreshadowing and irony, as the cat does cause an accident and inconveniences the family in the worst way.

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Both the concealed cat displayed by O’Connor as the Grandmother’s disregard for her family’s wishes and her lost sense of direction, as well contribute to the danger that the family is placed in. The dirt road that the Grandmother advises the family to go down is explained in detail in an ominous manner and the plot turns even more ominous as she realizes that she has the wrong road. O’Connor writes regarding the character that a horrible thought came to her...

her eyes dilated and her feet jumped up... the instant the valise moved, the newspaper top she had over the basket rose with a snarl and Pitty Sing, the cat, sprang onto Bailey’s shoulder (1140). This incident does lead to a car accident on this abandoned, old road. Therefore, both the choice to bring the fateful animal and the choice to take the family in a wrong direction, sends a message of a foreshadowed and foreshortened future for the family.

Finally, at the beginning of the story, when the cat is introduced into the plot, the Grandmother’s deception and dress are detailed. The foreshadowing of her outfit and accessories point to the fact that she has designed herself for death, in case that it comes. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once she was a lady (1136).

It should be noted that the idea or phrase of the word accident or accidental is used frequently in the story to show foreshadowing. In the citation with the cat and the uproar, there follows an automobile accident, where after the children scream several times both on pages 1140 and 1141, “We’ve had an ACCIDENT! ”. The foreshadowing of the usage of accident is only paralleled by the actions leading to the family’s doom.

In conclusion, O’Connor effectively uses examples of foreshadowing in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. Three of these examples illustrate this in the previous paragraphs and all tie in together to help the reader and literary critic understand that the story has deeper meaning and context than one may originally think. The frequent reference to accident or fear that something may happen accidentally all contribute to the undertones and overtones of death, deception, and doom in a world of change and chaos.

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