What are 6 examples of foreshadowing in the story "After Twenty Years"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

O. Henry's ironic story of the reunion of old companions in "After Twenty Years" contains some foreshadowing, or rather subtle hints, that the friends have changed greatly and these changes may affect their reunion.  But, the surprise of the ending is that the reader does not know which two characters will meet each other at the designated corner.  Here are six examples of the subtle foreshadowing of O. Henry:

  1. Trying doors as he went, twirling his club with many intricate and artful movements, turning now and then to cast his watchful eye adown the pacific thoroughfare, the officer, with his stalwart form and slight swagger, made a fine picture of a guardian of the peace.  [This hints that the policeman is proud of his position in law enforcement.]
  2. When about midway of a certain block the policeman suddenly slowed his walk. In the doorway of a darkened hardware store a man leaned, with an unlighted cigar in his mouth. [This suggests that the policeman may have recognized someone.]
  3. The man in the doorway struck a match and lit his cigar. The light showed a pale, square-jawed face with keen eyes, and a little white scar near his right eyebrow. [When the match lights up the man's face he is seen by the policeman, but the policeman remains in the shadows.]
  4. The light showed a pale, square jawed face with keen eyes, and a little white scar near his right eyebrow. His scarf pin was a large diamond, oddly set. [Along with the scar, the pin is something that is clearly distinguishable about the man, so the policeman may recognize him from a description distributed to police stations.]
  5. "We figured that in twenty years each of us ought to have our destiny worked out and our fortunes made, whatever they were going to be.” [These words are ironically true and hint at the destiny of the speaker as he talks to the policeman.]
  6. "I'll be on my way. Hope your friend comes around all right. Going to call time on him sharp?”
“I should say not!” said the other. “I'll give him half an hour at least. If Jimmy is alive on earth he'll be here by that time. So long, officer.”  [The officer asks if the stranger "will call time" on his friend so he can figure how much time he has to have the man in the doorway captured.]