"I'm in deep shit. Deep Shit, Arkansas."

- Louise

Foreshadowing in Thelma & Louise

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Foreshadowing consists of a plot device in which a relevant element of the story is introduced early on and used later. This technique is also known as "planting and payoff," as the writer presents (plants) something that doesn’t seem important at the time but that becomes major later on in the story (payoff).

 

Thelma & Louise has both major and subtle instances of foreshadowing throughout. They are necessary for the construction of a plausible plot. Without proper planting, some relevant elements in the story could feel awkward or absurd. Also, note how plot points are preceded by foreshadowing.

 

The Revolver

It’s hard not to notice it. Before being used, the revolver is shown prominently in two scenes. In the second one, Thelma and Louise actually argue about the revolver, as Louise defends that it wasn’t necessary to bring it.

Thelma & Louise - revolver gun foreshadowing

Notice how these scenes are structured to mislead the viewer. To profit a surprise later, it is at the filmmakers’ best interest to make the audience believe that the gun will go unused. Since Thelma can’t handle a gun (she holds it clumsily), and Louise is upset when she finds out that Thelma brought it, it is a pretty good (unconscious) guess that the gun is not important.

However, during the twist at the end of Act 1, the revolver is used, and it sends the story in a new direction.

 

JD’s Past

thelma & louise brad pitt photo

Before the Midpoint of the movie, Thelma talks with JD and much is revealed about his past. Up until that scene, JD had pretended to be a polite, educated, “school boy,” which was more than enough to attract Thelma. Naturally, this also how the audience perceives JD.

However, when he’s in bed with Thelma, a couple of facts about him foreshadows what happens in the following morning. Shirtless, JD displays a tattoo on his back near his shoulder. This is an indication that he’s not such a nice boy as he pretends to be. Also, through a cleverly written expositional dialogue, JD admits to be an outlaw.

thelma & louise brad pitt photo

These two elements are a suggestion of what happens on the following morning – JD steals money from Thelma and Louise. Much like the previous foreshadowing, notice how this is a surprise to the audience. The money had been deposited by Louise in the drawer in Thelma’s room a few scenes before JD knocked on Thelma’s door. Also, before Louise realizes that they we’re robbed on the following day, Thelma sashays into the cafeteria with a wide smile in her face. She’s happy she finally climaxed with JD.

 

The Resolution

Thelma & Louise’s ending has been target of much criticism because it is, to a certain extent, quite contrived.

It is extremely challenging to create two great characters that we love and care for, and then throw them off a cliff… let alone doing it convincingly. Undoubtedly, screenwriter Callie Khouri knew what she was facing. Thus she included enough foreshadowing to attenuate the impact of such a drastic conclusion.

Clearly, allowing the two gals to escape or get arrested was not an option. Thus the stakes keep getting higher and higher. When Louise talks to Detective Slocumb over the phone, she reveals, “Certain words and phrases just keep drifting through my mind, things like, incarceration, cavity search, death by electrocution, life in prison, shit like that, know what I'm sayin', so do I want to come out alive...” This dialogue is further suggestion that indeed they are not surrendering and that death might be a better alternative.