In Western literature, the idea of feeling fear and curiosity for the sake of experience began to debut its existence in the early 18th century, a time where people started to strive for the enhancement of music, art, and literature, otherwise known as the pre-Romantic or Romantic era. Around that time, an author named Horace Walpole invented the horror genre with his book, “The Castle of Otranto.” Ever since then, the horror genre had slowly started becoming more prominent in cultures across the world. Often in a horror story, writers commonly utilize a literary device called foreshadowing to subtly insinuate future events of their story by effectively manipulating key components such as dialogue and sensory details to further intensify the horror and suspense. Instances of stories that incorporate dialogue and sensory details with foreshadowing to advance the feeling of suspense and horror include “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl and “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs. All of which successfully use foreshadowing to add onto the suspense of their respective plots.
First and foremost, most authors use dialogue or a conversation between two or more people in a literary work to give readers an indication of what is to come in the future. The short fictional tale “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl depicts the story of a young business traveler named Billy Weaver who stays at a Bed and Breakfast and slowly starts unraveling suspicious discoveries about the landlady. The author uses the conversations between Billy and the landlady to suggest the ultimate demise of Billy Weaver. For example, when Billy found out that the last guest to stay at the Bed and Breakfast stayed years ago, he comes to the conclusion that the person must have left recently. However, to his surprise, the landlady says, “‘Left?’ she said, arching her eyebrows. ‘But my dear boy, he never left. He’s still here. Mr. Temple is also here. They’re on the third floor, both of them together.’” (Dahl 7). The landlady’s words can indicate that something happened to the two guests that had stayed at her place years ago which is the reason why they were still at her residence after so many years. Roald Dahl uses abstract foreshadowing in the quote to enhance the feeling of suspense and horror. Abstract foreshadowing is when the author uses intangible things, such as words, sounds, and weather, to hint at events that will occur in the future. The quote about the landlady saying that the guests never left is a definite example of abstract foreshadowing as her words are used to suggest that something happened to the guests while they stayed at her place. The quote plays a significant role in the story because readers know that the landlady definitely seems suspicious because her guests have never left despite it being years since they have checked in. As a result of her suspicious behavior, readers feel more tense and excitement because they are left wondering why the guests are still at the establishment. Similarly, the author of “The Monkey’s Paw” also attempts to use dialogue to foreshadow and lift the feeling of suspense in their story. The fictional novel titled, “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs illustrates the story of the White family who makes the decision to use a cursed monkey’s paw to wish upon their wants and needs. When the White family presses their guest, a soldier, to tell them more about the monkey’s paw, he then states, “‘The first man had his three wishes. Yes,’ was the reply; ‘I don’t know what the first two were, but the third was for death. That’s how I got the paw.’” (Jacobs 108). The soldier’s words are an indication that usage of the monkey’s paw would end in dire consequence because the last person who used it ultimately made the decision to end their life. Readers can assume that the person ended their life as a result of experiencing the negative effects of their previous two wishes. This fact is crucial to the plot of the story because readers right away have advanced knowledge that if the White family attempts to use the monkey’s paw, there will be serious repercussions. Furthermore, the quote is also an example of abstract foreshadowing. The author manipulates dialogue and hints that there will be consequences if the White family resort to the monkey’s paw. With this knowledge, the suspense of the story strengthens as readers wonder what would happen to the White family if they do use the monkey’s paw. Without a doubt, both of the short horror texts use dialogue to foreshadow and enhance the feeling of excitement and fear of what will happen next.
Along with dialogue, some authors also choose to foreshadow by using sensory details in their narratives. For example, in “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl, Billy Weaver was having a conversation with the landlady and when she offers more tea to him he then says, “‘No, thank you,’ Billy said. The tea tasted faintly of bitter almonds, and he didn’t care much for it” (Dahl 8). In other words, the bitter taste of almonds could indicate cyanide poisoning because cyanide is known to taste like bitter almonds. The author uses the sense of taste to foreshadow what will happen to Billy if he continues to drink the tea. Moreover, the quote is also an instance of abstract foreshadowing because taste is something one cannot touch or see in person, making it intangible. This foreshadowing contributes to the horror and suspense of the story by making readers wonder if the amount of tea Billy has consumed will be enough to make him pass away. Likewise, the story “The Monkey’s Paw” also uses elements of sensory details for what is to come and contribute to the suspense of the plot. When Mr. White made his first wish for two-hundred pounds, the text illustrates, “A fine crash from the piano greeted the words, interrupted by a shuddering cry from the old man” (Jacobs 109). The quote is an instance of what is known as fallacy foreshadowing. Fallacy foreshadowing diverts the reader’s attention from the actual truth. The piano is diverting the reader’s attention and making them believe that it means more than what it is. Mr. White is frightened because after he wished upon the money, the piano crashed all of a sudden. This quote is significant to note because it throws readers off which results in more suspense and questions asked. Undoubtedly, both stories display the use of sensory details and foreshadowing to make the stories even more suspenseful to readers.
Ultimately, the horror novels “The Monkey’s Paw” and “The Landlady” both foreshadow future events through the use of dialogue and sensory details to contribute to the feeling of suspense and fear throughout the stories. The authors utilize special types of foreshadowing such as fallacy and abstract to aid in making a bigger impact on the dialogue and sensory details. With having prior knowledge of what is to come later on in the story, readers can feel a sense of excitement and fright as they wonder what will happen.
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