Foreshadowing is a literary device used by writers to present hints about events yet to happen. Foreshadowing creates dramatic tension as the reader anticipates what is to come without always knowing exactly how it will come to pass or even if it will happen for sure. In The Bonesetter’s Daughter, for example, Baby Uncle receives bad omens for this marriage to Precious Auntie and later dies on his wedding day, leaving Precious Auntie to live out a difficult and unhappy life, and Ruth’s first worry about her mother’s health is dementia but she immediately disregards this and is taken by surprise when the doctor gives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s (a type of dementia).
Setting is a literary term encompassing the location, the time period, and the cultural milieu that provides not just a backdrop for the story but also a context. For example, The Bonesetter’s Daughter has two main settings, which correspond to its two major characters, pre-war rural China and early twenty-first century San Francisco. The setting in China starts off gentle and sleepy and probably foreign to most Western readers but builds in danger and consequence as Peking Man is discovered and the war with Japan breaks out. In parallel to these events, LuLing grows from childhood to adulthood. The setting in San Francisco is probably familiar to Western readers, even if they have not been to the city, making Ruth the character readers will more readily identify with. Her struggles, although not life-threatening as LuLing’s sometimes were, are the kinds of things people deal with in contemporary Western society: difficulty balancing work and personal life, multicultural families, stepchildren, and elderly parents who need assisted living. In this way, setting enhances the story being told.
Sara Constantakis (Editor), Novels for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Volume 31, Amy Tan, Published by Gale, Cengage Learning, 2010.