The key difference between flashback and foreshadowing is that flashback refers to the past while foreshadowing refers to the future.
Both these are literary devices used when writing novels, short stories or in making movies. Using these techniques make a work of art more interesting and increases the curiosity of the audience. Flashback is often used to refer to something that happened in the past, before the current events of the story. Foreshadowing is giving hints about the characters or the future events of the story. Both these literary devices interrupt the current plotline; therefore, they should be used wisely without causing any confusion to the readers or viewers.
What is a Flashback?
Flashback is referring to the incidents that happened in the past that are significant to the current plotline. This is also called ‘analepsis’. Flashback recalls previous incidents and usually interrupts the current storyline and the chronological order of the events happening in the story. Therefore, they should be used prudently without creating any confusion. This technique is frequently seen in movies and novels. It helps the audience or the readers see certain aspects of the story that happened in the past yet related to the current situation. Authors use this device to reveal the background information of the characters in the story and their motivations. There are two categories in this section, they are,
- Internal analepsis – refers to an earlier point in the narrative
- External analepsis – refers to some incident that happened before the narrative
Examples of Flashback
“When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. When it healed, and Jem’s fears of never being able to play football were assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury.”
(To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)
“In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
(The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
What is Foreshadowing?
Through foreshadowing, the audience gets to know about the future events of the story. This is done when authors give a faint hint about the upcoming events of the story in a way that does not destroy the audience’s interest and curiosity. This too interrupts the current plotline; therefore, the authors should make predictions in their work wisely. Foreshadowing can be used at the beginning of a story, at the end of a chapter or at the end of a book to give some hint about the upcoming books in the same series. The main purpose of foreshadowing is to increase the excitement of the audience.
Examples of Foreshadowing
“By the pricking of my thumb
Something wicked this way comes”
(Macbeth by William Shakespeare)
“Go ask his name.—If he be married.
My grave is like to be my wedding bed.”
(Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)
What is the Difference Between Flashback and Foreshadowing?
The key difference between flashback and foreshadowing is that flashback is about the events that happened in the past while foreshadowing is about the events that are about to happen in the future in a story. Both these interrupt the plotline of a story, but they should maintain coherence.
The following table summarizes the differences between flashback and foreshadowing in tabular form for side by side comparison.
Summary – Flashback vs Foreshadowing
The key difference between flashback and foreshadowing is that flashback refers to the past while foreshadowing refers to the future. Both provide further information about the characters, their motives and increase the curiosity, excitement and enthusiasm of the audience towards the literary work. These devices interrupt the present storyline and its chronological order of incidents, yet it is a must to maintain the coherence.
1. “Macbeth meets the three witches; scene from Shakespeare’s ‘M Wellcome V0025894” By Welcome Gallery (CC BY 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia