I hope you’re all checking over your shoulder today, seeing as it’s March 15th, that fated, ominous day where Caesar should have been paying a little bit more attention. “Beware the ides of March” has become synonymous with the bad omen, ignored warning and general “sleep with one eye open” sensibility. Omens and portents are everywhere in literature—the Greeks and Romans especially loved them.
In more modern literature, the omens are tougher to spot, maybe requiring a careful rereading (and a helpful English teacher to point them out at every turn), but they are a mainstay. Whether it’s Poe’s raven or the harbinger of Anne Shirley’s doomed marriage as she envisions her funeral the morning of her wedding, the little things an author inserts into their work are rarely there by accident.
The Huffington Post ran a slideshow of some pretty interesting omens in literature, from ancient texts through to Harry Potter (that darn Grim!)—some I hadn’t even considered until they were pointed out. It goes back to that rereading aspect. Picking out nuances and theretofore unrecognized significances, symbols and yes, omens, upon reading a book over again with knowledge of how it all plays out is one of the many delights of literature.
Have you discovered any signs or portents while rereading a favorite book? Anything you didn’t notice the first time around that seem so obvious upon a second or third session?