Foreshadowing is a literary device by which the author provides information that gives clues about a development later in the text. This information may constitute a small part of a single, larger subject or it may be an analogous situation. Authors sometimes use symbols in foreshadowing.
Chapter 5 of Medicine River includes a number of interactions between Will’s mother, Rose, and her friend Erleen. Initially, Will views Erleen’s offering Rose gifts as gestures of kindness and generosity, and he makes a comment about Erleen’s supposedly being rich. He fails to understand why his mother refuses the proffered gifts. It later develops that Erleen has been shoplifting. When she gets caught, the storekeeper calls the police.
Rose, unlike her son, was suspicious about how Erleen had obtained the items. On one occasion, Erleen offered her some nylon stockings, which even Will knew were expensive. Rose declined the gift and told Will that Erleen was poor like them. A second incident involves Erleen bringing over an expensive brand of cookies. Rose, with better knowledge than her son of Erleen’s financial situation, knows that her friend cannot afford to purchase such items. While she values Erleen’s friendship, she is also shown as careful about any possible legal entanglement.