Where is foreshadowing used in The Great Gatsby?

Some places in which foreshadowing is used in The Great Gatsby include the end of chapter 3, when the car accident at Gatsby's party foreshadows the car accident that kills Myrtle, and in chapter 1, which foreshadows the tense events in chapter 7 and the fact that Daisy will never leave Tom.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Probably the most famous example of foreshadowing in the novel is the confused car accident at the end of one of Gatsby's parties in which people mistake who is driving:

“You don’t understand,” explained the criminal. “I wasn’t driving. There’s another man in the car.”

This foreshadows the car accident near the end of the novel when Daisy runs over Myrtle, but people such as Wilson believe that Gatsby was driving the car.

Another careless driving incident foreshadows both the final accident and the end of Jordan and Nick's relationship. Jordan drives so close to some workmen one day that she flicks the button off a coat of one, suggesting that she almost ran him over. Jordan and Nick have the following conversation:

“You’re a rotten driver,” I protested. “Either you ought to be more careful, or you oughtn’t to drive at all.”

“I am careful.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Well, other people are,” she said lightly. ...

“Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself.”

“I hope I never will,” she answered. “I hate careless people. That’s why I like you.”

As she is breaking up with him after the events of the accident with Myrtle, Jordan says:

I met another bad driver, didn’t I? I mean it was careless of me to make such a wrong guess. I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride.

Chapter 1 is also an example of foreshadowing. In chapter 7, the same cast of characters, with the addition of Gatsby, will assemble in the same room at the Buchanan's house with the “wine-colored” rug. As in chapter 1, the tension level will be high, and as in chapter 1, an extramarital love affair by one of the Buchanans will drive the tension.

Hints in chapter 1 also foreshadow that Daisy will never leave Tom. Nick is surprised that she tolerates Tom's affair without fleeing:

It seemed to me that the thing for Daisy to do was to rush out of the house, child in arms—but apparently there were no such intentions in her head.

Nick also feels as if he has been “played” by her and

as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged.

This foreshadows Nick seeing Tom and Daisy after the car accident “conspiring together” over cold chicken.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Fitzgerald foreshadows future events numerous times throughout the novel by using motifs, imagery, and character dialogue to hint at what will happen later on in the story. In chapter 3, Nick attends one of Gatsby's extravagant parties and witnesses an accident outside of Gatsby's home. One of Gatsby's inebriated guests attempts to drive and wrecks his car into a ditch about fifty feet from Gatsby's front door. Fitzgerald foreshadows Daisy wrecking Gatsby's yellow car towards the end of the novel by depicting Owl Eye's accident outside of Gatsby's home in chapter 3.

In chapter 4, Gatsby invites Nick to eat lunch with him in New York City and introduces Nick to his shady business partner, Meyer Wolfsheim. Gatsby then tells Nick that Meyer Wolfsheim fixed the 1919 World Series, which foreshadows Gatsby's occupation as an illegal bootlegger. Later on in the novel, Tom Buchanan will announce that Jay Gatsby is a bootlegger in front of Daisy, effectively ruining Gatsby's chances to be with her. 

In chapter 7, the main characters decide to travel into the city during one of the hottest days of the summer. The hot weather foreshadows the rising tension and growing animosity between Tom and Jay Gatsby, which will result in Tom exposing Gatsby as a criminal. Fitzgerald also foreshadows the end of Daisy and Gatsby's relationship when Gatsby tells Nick, "Her [Daisy] voice is full of money" (Fitzgerald, 65). Gatsby's comment indicates that the only thing truly important to Daisy is her financial stability, which is why she will not leave Tom for Jay.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of the more subtle and eerie uses of foreshadowing in The Great Gatsby appears in chapter seven and is accomplished through imagery.  All of the principal characters have gathered at the Buchanans' home in East Egg for a luncheon, and the events of the day and evening comprise the novel's climax. Fitzgerald builds the tension that leads to the showdown between Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in many ways, beginning with the unbearably hot weather that precedes the chapter's violent conclusion and Myrtle Wilson's death.  The image that foreshadows Gatsby's death in chapter eight occurs when Tom Buchanan has left the salon described as "dark and cool."  Daisy and Jordan, "silver idols" in their white dresses, look on as  Nick, ever the observer, creates an image of the titular character: 

"Gatsby stood in the centre of the crimson carpet and gazed around with fascinated eyes."

Here Fitzgerald presents Gatsby in a pool of blood, wide-eyed and unaware of the malignant forces that will claim his life in just a few short hours. Though neither Tom nor Daisy will pull the trigger, they will be culpable in his murder: Tom lets Wilson believe that it was Gatsby who killed Myrtle and Daisy fails to reveal her role in Myrtle's death--or warn Gatsby that Wilson is coming for him. This image in chapter seven foreshadows Nick's last glimpse of Gatsby in chapter eight and echoes the crimson motif as his lifeless body floats in "a thin red circle in the water."

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1925.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial