Pride and Prejudice


Jane Austen

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Pride and Prejudice: Foreshadowing 5 key examples

Definition of Foreshadowing
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which authors hint at plot developments that don't actually occur until later in the story. Foreshadowing can be achieved directly or indirectly, by making... read full definition
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which authors hint at plot developments that don't actually occur until later in the story. Foreshadowing can be achieved... read full definition
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which authors hint at plot developments that don't actually occur until later in the... read full definition
Chapter 6
Explanation and Analysis—Charlotte's Marriage:

Though Elizabeth is shocked to learn of Collins and Charlotte becoming engaged, Austen foreshadows this turn of events in an earlier scene. When Elizabeth and Charlotte are discussing Jane and Bingley’s courtship early in the novel, Charlotte makes it clear that “securing” a partner is the most important thing, implying that she herself is uninterested in getting to know the “disposition” of her potential husband until after they are married, saying, "When she is secure of him, there will be more leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses." She later goes on to say:

"Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least.”

This is precisely what Charlotte does when it comes to Collins—she has only just met him and knows very little about him, aside from the fact that Elizabeth has turned down his proposal and considers him to have an awkward and condescending character. In that way, Austen subtly foreshadows Charlotte’s impromptu betrothal.

This moment also establishes Charlotte as a foil to Elizabeth—whereas Elizabeth is discerning about who she will marry and chooses to wait until she finds someone with whom she falls in love, Charlotte is content to marry someone she does not love in order to have financial security.

Chapter 19
Explanation and Analysis—Second Proposal:

In a moment of foreshadowing, Elizabeth rejects Collins’s marriage proposal and, after he says that he will ask her again, she tells him that she is not the type of a woman to say yes to a proposal after previously saying no:

“Upon my word, sir,” cried Elizabeth, “your hope is a rather extraordinary one after my declaration. I do assure you that I am not one of those young ladies (if such young ladies there are) who are so daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being asked a second time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal.”

This moment foreshadows (with some situational irony) how Elizabeth is, in fact, one of “those young ladies” who will say yes the second time someone asks for their hand in marriage, as that is exactly what happens with her and Darcy. She rejects him the first time he asks and, upon learning of his true character and falling in love with him, says yes the second time.

This moment is an example of situational irony because, rather than literally foreshadowing what will happen, Austen hints that the opposite will occur. This adds to another theme of the novel: that Elizabeth’s pride often gets in the way of her seeing herself—and others—clearly. 

Elizabeth’s decision to reject Collins also shows that she is not interested in marrying for financial security; while she knows she will reject him again because she does not love him, she ultimately says yes to Darcy because she comes to love him.

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Chapter 35
Explanation and Analysis—Wickham's Behavior:

Though Lydia and Wickham’s elopement comes as a shock to many characters, Austen foreshadowed Wickham’s manipulative behavior in Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth. In it, he explains how Wickham attempted to run away with his sister Georgiana just the year before:

“He so far recommended himself to Georgiana, whose affectionate heart retained a strong impression of his kindness to her as a child, that she was persuaded to believe herself in love, and to consent to an elopement. She was then but fifteen.”

The fact that Lydia and Georgiana are both 15 years old when Wickham (who is in his late 20s) convinces them to run away with him is not an accident—this is Austen’s way of connecting the two scandals together, and also of highlighting the manipulative cruelty at the heart of Wickham’s character.

This moment also proves to Elizabeth that Darcy was telling the truth about Wickham all along, and that her prejudice against Darcy was more than just personally damaging. Her prejudice not only got in the way of her romantic relationship with him, but also prevented her from taking action to prevent Wickham from targeting her sister and ruining her entire family.

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Chapter 41
Explanation and Analysis—Lydia's Behavior:

Many chapters before Lydia runs away with Wickham while in Brighton, Elizabeth takes time to explain to Mr. Bennet why he shouldn’t let Lydia follow the regiment to Brighton, foreshadowing Lydia's rash actions to come:

“If you, my dear father, will not take the trouble of checking her exuberant spirits, and of teaching her that her present pursuits are not to be the business of her life, she will soon be beyond the reach of amendment. Her character will be fixed, and she will, at sixteen, be the most determined flirt that ever made herself or her family ridiculous.”

In having Elizabeth state that Lydia may “soon be beyond the reach of amendment” and that she will make the family “ridiculous,” Austen hints that Lydia will go on to do exactly this in her relationship with Wickham. By running away with him before getting married, Lydia willfully risks all of her sister’s reputations since, at this time, a woman’s romantic entanglements had implications for all of her other unmarried sisters.

This quote also shows how precarious social standing and economic class is for unmarried women of their age—one wrong move by a 15-year-old and all of the Bennet sisters could end up unmarried and, upon the death of their father, evicted from their home.

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Chapter 43
Explanation and Analysis—Elizabeth at Pemberley:

By the time Elizabeth visits Pemberley with her aunt and uncle (the Gardiners), she has already rejected Darcy and now believes that he is no longer interested in her. Still, as she sees Pemberley for the first time, she can’t help but think about living there as Darcy’s wife, foreshadowing the marriage to come. As the narrator puts it:

Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste… at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!

This moment hints that hope is not lost for Elizabeth and Darcy, since Elizabeth can still picture a future with him. It also shows that Elizabeth has gone through a change since the start of the book—while she previously held prejudice against Darcy for his wealth (and the pride that she felt came along with it), she can now appreciate the beauty and splendor of his mansion home.

This moment therefore also highlights the way that houses as a symbol function in the novel as a stand-in for class. At this point in the novel, Elizabeth has come to understand that class is not a marker for morality, and she can therefore appreciate Pemberley (and Darcy) for what (and who) they are.

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