Essay about Effective Foreshadowing in Flannery O’Connor’s Greenleaf

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Effective Foreshadowing in Flannery O’Connor’s Greenleaf

“Mrs. May’s bedroom window was low and faced on the east and the bull, silvered in the moonlight, stood under it, his head raised as if he listened- like some patient god come down to woo her- for a stir inside her room. The window was dark and the sound of her breathing too light to be carried outside. Clouds crossing the room blackened him and in the dark he began to tear at the hedge. Presently they passed and he appeared again in the same spot, chewing steadily, with a hedge-wreath that he had ripped loose for himself caught in the tips of his horns. When the moon drifted into retirement again, there was nothing to mark his place but the sound of steady chewing. Then
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Her murderer, “some nigger’s scrub bull”(311), is here to stay. He is not a fleeting image at her window side. Rather, he is “patient”, “[appears] again in the same spot”, and is twice described by the modifier “steady”. In addition, the bull seems to transcend ideas of time and nature’s cycles. Although, in the first paragaph he only outlasts one cycle of the moon emerging and retracting, his unwavering presence characterizes him as a survivor.

If the bull is a survivor, then Mrs. May is a victim. In contrast to the bull, she is vulnerable and defenseless. Her window “was low” and her breathing “was light”. She is the recipient of the action, as opposed to the giver. The bull watches her and presents his horns, the instrument of her forthcoming death. Mrs. May, as with her death, has no choice in the matter. There is nothing she can do but be watched and presented to.

The ideas of the dominator and dominated evident in the word choice of the paragraph hint at the mechanics of Mrs. May’s murder. When the bull takes her life in the story’s final scene, she is penetrated by the horns that were presented to her on the first night outside her window.

Repetition, although subtle, is evident in the paragraph. The word “window” is repeated three times, and “chewing” is repeated twice. The repetition is not particularly noticeable upon first reading of this paragraph because the words appear in different structural areas
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