In Bernard Malamud’s "The Magic Barrel," the author hints at and foreshadows the ending at the beginning of the story. When the reader first meets Pinye Salzman, the marriage broker, his “amiable manner curiously contrasted with mournful eyes" and "his mild blue eyes revealed a depth of sadness.”
This foreshadows the sadness and mourning we see at the end of the story when Leo insists on meeting Salzman’s daughter Stella. Salzman watches their encounter surreptitiously and “chanted prayers for the dead.” So the author uses the word mournful to describe Salzman’s eyes, and by the end of the story, Salzman is mourning.
When Salzman first opens his briefcase to show Leo the file of prospective brides, “the student pretended not to see and gazed steadfastly out the window.” This is also foreshadowing. Although Leo says he wants to meet a bride through Salzman, he pays no attention, just as he pays no attention at the end of the story when he ignores Salzman’s protests against his meeting Stella.
Another example of foreshadowing and irony is when Salzman asks, “is every girl good for a new rabbi?" The irony here is that Salzman describes Stella as wild. Yet, she is the girl that Leo decides on—not a good girl from Salzman’s portfolio.
Leo uneasily asks Salzman about a young girl in the portfolio: "But don't you think this young girl believes in love?" The irony is that Leo does not have time to meet a girl on his own and fall in love, so he has engaged a marriage broker. He has approached his potential marriage in an extremely businesslike manner, but is fearful that the young girl does not believe in love.
When Leo asks about her health, Salzman responds, “Perfect… Of course, she is a little lame on her right foot…” There are two elements of irony here. First, Leo questions Salzman almost as if he were negotiating to buy a horse. Moreover, Salzman responds that the girl is lame: again somewhat like what two people discuss when negotiating the sale of a horse.
Finally, “ashamed of the way the talk was going, Leo dismissed Salzman, who went home with heavy, melancholy eyes.” The double meaning here is that Leo dismisses Salzman literally and figuratively: he later meets Stella against Salzman’s wishes. Moreover, Leo is a source of Salzman’s melancholy at the end of the story, which is also hinted at in this passage.