How does the one writer you have studied foreshadow events or ideas to come later in their works, and what is the effect of such foreshadowing?

This was one of the questions which I have been assigned to. I am supposed to answer this question with reference to The Great Gatsby. One of my pointers is this:

Secondly, foreshadowing is also used to allude to us that things are about to turn horribly sour for Gatsby. This literary device was used in chapter 5, during Gatsby’s meeting with Daisy. On the day that Gatsby and Daisy met, it poured heavily. Meanwhile, inside the house, as Gatsby was reclining, “His head leaned back so far that it rested against the face of a defunct mantelpiece clock, and from this position, his distraught eyes stared down at Daisy”. While conversing, “the clock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers, and set it back in place.” Nick also notes that “I think we all believed for a moment that it had smashed in pieces on the floor.”

This series of events that occur consecutively cleverly alludes to us what is about to happen to Gatsby. Firstly, the rain that was pouring during the meeting set the tone for future events to come. It alluded to us that although things appeared to be going well for Gatsby, trouble was just outside the door. Next, the defunct clock that Gatsby leaned on as he stared down at Daisy also represented his life as a whole. Gatsby was constantly shown to be living in the past, in the love that he and Daisy once had. That is depicted through the broken clock that represented Gatsby’s life being frozen in time. The clock then begins to tilt, almost crashing to the ground. This warns us that this frozen life of Gatsby’s is about to fall apart. Even when Gatsby attempts to put things back together, as shown through him setting the clock back in its place, his life will ultimately fall apart and he might even lose it. This is foreshadowed through the fact that everyone else still believed for a moment, that the clock had smashed to pieces on the floor.

Initially, I felt like this analysis was a bit too hopeful. Like I was drawing conclusions from an otherwise minor event in the story. I just found it weird that Fitzgerald would have chosen to write that bit about the clock tipping over if it had no special meaning to it. So I felt that I had to analyse it.

Is my analysis here too far fetched? Any advice on how it could be otherwise interpreted? Or whether this event in the story should need analysis at all?

  • On a side note, I initially thought that my analysis was rather clever. But my literature teacher called it nonsense and asked if I had rushed my essay the night before its submission date. Just wanted to know how others felt about it.
    – David Toh
    Dec 27, 2017 at 17:23
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    Tbh I'm not entirely sure what you're looking for in an answer here. Your interpretation seems like a plausible interpretation to me. You're teacher's comments seem harsh. But I'm not really sure what sort of answer would be helpful to you or future readers. What exactly are you looking for in answers?
    – user111
    Dec 27, 2017 at 22:20
  • @Hamlet I just wanted to know if the people here feel like this analysis is too far fetched. Because I could use this point in future examinations if it works
    – David Toh
    Dec 28, 2017 at 2:09
  • i mean, the people on this site might think you're a genius but that won't change how your examiner sees you.
    – user111
    Dec 28, 2017 at 2:17
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    I find it a bit difficult to establish the focus of this question. I think it should ask either (1) "Is the clock tipping over an example of foreshadowing?" or (2) "How does Fitgerald foreshadow that things will turn out badly for Gatsby?"
    – Tsundoku
    May 15, 2021 at 23:29

1 Answer 1


If I were to fault your analysis, I would say that it lacks "concreteness." That said, I would consider it entirely plausible. And maybe the "fault" is with the novel itself, and not your analysis. After all, we are almost 100 years removed in time from it.

I wouldn't have necessarily predicted a "bad" end, but the glitches portrayed in Chapter 5 don't give me a good feeling. There's still room for a happy ending, but that would happen to Gatsby and Daisy in spite of, rather than because of themselves. They were swimming "upstream," because Daisy was a married woman. Nowadays, one can easily imagine Daisy getting a divorce from Tom Buchanan for "abuse," but that was far less acceptable in the 1920s.

So the "default" condition is that Gatsby fails. Nothing in Chapter 5 or later ultimately changes that, although at one point, at what I call the "high water mark" it seemed like Gatsby might have succeeded against the odds.

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