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Near the end of the movie Mirror Mirror, I heard the following line uttered by the mirror:

"Are you ready to learn the price of using magic?"

It was spoken as a threat, but the mirror was not issuing a threat.

A similar statement was uttered in the movie series Dune, when the girl was speaking to the villain about the doom that would befall him momentarily: "My brother comes."

What is the term given to this literary device?

Edit: The movie's name is Mirror Mirror, an adaption to the snow white story.

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3  
Sounds like to warn. –  anonymous Apr 14 '13 at 21:22
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These speakers are being threatening; their words are threats, even if the threat is implied (but maybe that's the source of your question -- the implied nature of the threat).Or perhaps you're saying that the person making the statement is not the source of the threatened action. To put it more simply, perhaps you mean the speaker is making a threat, and something or someone else will carry out the threat (unlike saying "I'm going to hit you," and then hitting that person). If one of these alternatives is what you mean, please ask another question. –  John M. Landsberg Apr 15 '13 at 7:12

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Conceivably the statements are intended as foreshadowing, “a literary device in which an author hints certain plot developments that perhaps will come to be later in the story”. But if the event is going to happen in the next few seconds rather than somewhat later, the phrases may be serving as a segue, “a smooth transition from one topic or section to the next”, or it might be setting the scene.

Foreshadowing sometimes is referred to as adumbration, meaning “A vague indication of what is to come”. When the adumbration is awfully clear or heavy-handed, it is referred to as being on the nose, and that's the term I’m inclined to suggest for the examples in the question. This meaning is different from several other meanings of on the nose, such as “Exact; precise; appropriate”; or betting on a win; or smelling bad. Instead, it's the usage portrayed in the following on-the-nose excerpt from “Desperate Housewives”, mentioned in a thread at wordreference.com:

Bob and Lee, two gay friends, are giving a Halloween party, Katherine arrives, disguised as Queen Marie Antoinette, and these are the lines:

LEE - You came as a self-important queen who lost all her power? Isn't that a bit on the nose?
KATHERINE - Lee making jokes about a queen. Isn't that a bit ironic?

The term also is defined at the TV Tropes entry for “On The Nose Dialog”:

This is a term scriptwriters use when describing things that are clearly shown in a scene already. Thus pointing them out becomes painfully redundant.
A Sub Trope of Show Don’t Tell, where the showing is left out, but the telling still should be. ... Compare Captain Obvious.

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foreshadowing for the win –  user42440 Apr 15 '13 at 0:20
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This discussion of foreshadowing is accurate and thoughtful. I would emphasize that the answer correctly points out that events due to happen almost immediately are not really foreshadowing, and I would add that statements of impending action, such as "My brother comes," are definitely not foreshadowing. I don't think they can really be considered much of a literary "device" at all; they are merely part of the storyline. But when a hunter in Act One has trouble controlling his horse during a fox hunt, it foreshadows the incident in Act Three when he is thrown from the horse and killed. –  John M. Landsberg Apr 15 '13 at 7:23
    
I have read this several times and followed the links. I do not understand the "on the nose" relevance to the foreshadowing. What does on the nose in any version of it have to do with foreshadowing? –  mplungjan Apr 15 '13 at 9:36
    
@mplungjan, I thought of “Are you ready to learn the price of using magic?” as tantamount to “Ok, kids, here’s the moral of our story”. As such, it would be not a subtle foreshadowing but instead a directive telling the audience what to think. If I've misinterpreted the tone of the lines in question, then on-the-nose may be irrelevant. –  jwpat7 Apr 15 '13 at 13:38
    
I assume "Snow white and the huntsman" hence the mirror is not that friendly and Disney like :) - I hear the foreboding menace in the sentence –  mplungjan Apr 15 '13 at 13:59

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