The individual stories in Dubliners do not, in themselves, feature a great deal of foreshadowing. This has something to do with the fact that, in large part, the short stories in the collection do not have complex or involved plots in which lots of things happen. More often, the stories hold the reader in suspense without suggesting how events will unfold. For example, the activity of the young men in “Two Gallants” remains a mystery until the very end; the reader knows that they are engaged in some form of duplicity, but the narrative provides no clear foreshadowing as to what the crux of their duplicity is. In the longer stories, Joyce sometimes uses symbols to foreshadow later events or revelations. In “The Dead,” Gabriel examines a painting of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet in his aunts’ parlor. This foreshadows a similar balcony scene in the story Gabriel’s wife tells him later that night concerning her first love. However, this form of foreshadowing is so subtle as only to be appreciable upon a second reading.
Although Joyce does not use foreshadowing in a traditional way in Dubliners, the literary device does appear in a less conventional form that might better be understood in terms of patterning. This patterning relates to the theme of paralysis. Whereas the theme of paralysis may by definition seem to prevent narrative development (and thus foreshadowing), it actually creates a pattern that oscillates between hope and disillusionment. In each of the stories in Dubliners, characters express some type of optimism, whether about making it rich, rising above their class, or escaping their dull and dreary lives. And in every story, this optimism gets undermined. Joyce frequently encapsulates this pattern in a single sentence, as in this one from “Counterparts”: “He watched her leave the room in the hope that she would look back at him, but he was disappointed.” The first few stories condition the reader to expect hopes to be dashed and pessimism to reign, so that the further we get into the story collection, the more we resign ourselves to the belief that things will never work out. Thus, foreshadowing emerges in a very untraditional way: as the cumulative effect of this pattern of hope and disillusionment.