Definition of Foreword

Foreward is an introduction written for a book by an associate or an author. Etymologically, the term foreword is made up of two words ‘fore’ and ‘word’ that has appeared in the English language in 1842 without any trace of its origin. However, it is certain that the term has appeared with reference to books and with the association of preface that is an introduction to a book. Terminologically, it is a linguistic as well as a literary term that appears at the beginning of the book. This part of the book sheds light on the why and where of the book.

Generally stating, it is like a preface but it is stated that there is a difference. A preface is generally written by the author of the book himself, while somebody else writes the foreword. As far as the objective of both the terms is concerned, a foreword informs the reader why the book has appeared, while a preface provides a clue to the readers about how the author has written the book and what is his explicit or implicit purpose.

Examples of Foreword in Literature

Example #1

Editor’s Foreword from Oedipus at Colonus Translated by Eamon Grennan and Rachel Kitzinger

The Greek Tragedy in New Translations is based on the conviction that poets like Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides can only be properly rendered by translators who are themselves poets. Scholars may, it is true, produce useful and perceptive versions. But our most urgent present need is for a re-creation of these plays—as though they had been written, freshly and greatly, by masters fully at home in the English of our own times.”

Although this is just a passage from Editor’s Foreword, it shows that a difference between a preface and a foreword is generally about who writes it. This part of the foreword clearly shows that the editor wants the readers to know why this translation of Oedipus at Colonus, a play by Sophocles, differs from other books. That is why he informs the readers about the contemporary poets of Sophocles, talks about the scholars, and informs the readers about the significance of this issue of the play in the English language.

Example #2

Foreword of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway The Finca Vigia Edition by John, Patrick, and Gregory Hemingway

When Papa and Mary first rented in 1940 the Finca Vigía which was to be his home for the next twenty-two years until his death, there was still a real country on the south side. This country no longer exists. It was not done in by middle-class real estate developers like Chekhov’s cherry orchard, which might have been its fate in Puerto Rico or Cuba without the Castro revolution, but by the startling growth of the population of poor people and their shack housing which is such a feature of all the Greater Antilles, no matter what their political persuasion.

This is the foreword of The Complete Short Stories of Hemingway by Hemingway’s family members. It means that the writers of foreword are then two as the names suggest. This passage informs the readers about the writers, their relationship with the author, their objective of writing this foreword, and how they feel about their father. It shows that they see him writing great stories like that of Anton Chekhov and know that he has lived in Cuba and has loved poverty. It means that they are stating the main objective of this collection of short stories.

Example #3

Foreword by Mary Helen Washington to Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston

Black male critics were much harsher in their assessments of the novel. From the beginning of her career, Hurston was severely criticized for not writing fiction in the protest tradition. Sterling Brown said in 1936 of her earlier book Mules and Men that it was not bitter enough, that it did not depict the harsher side of black life in the South, that Hurston made black southern life appear easygoing and carefree. Alain Locke, dean of black scholars and critics during the Harlem Renaissance, wrote in his yearly review of the literature for Opportunity magazine that Hurston’s Their Eyes was simply out of step with the more serious trends of the times.

This forward appeared at the beginning of the novel of Zora Neal Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God. The very first word of this foreword shows that the novel is based on racial discrimination and segregation as it shows how African American critics attacked the novel when it appeared the first time. This shows the objective of this foreword to attack the author how she has diverted from the existing trend of those times.

Example #4

Foreword by Edwidge Danticat to Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston

Janie Crawford is able to retrace her steps, disembark from her own ship, come home, and remember because she has been close to death but has lived a very full life. So in spite of the judgmental voices that greet her upon her return, in spite of the “mass cruelty” invoked by her prodigal status, Janie has earned the right to be the griot of her own tale, the heroine of her own quest, the “member” of her own remembering.

This passage occurs in the foreword written by Edwidge Denticat at the beginning of the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. This foreword appreciates Janie’s character and her actions, stating that this aspect of the novel has rather win laurels. This also means that Edwidge Denticat wants to demonstrate the objective of the novel why it is a new trend in the fiction writing industry of that times.

Functions of Foreword

A foreword in literature not only shows why the literary book has appeared, it also shows the relevance of the book to the current times and how it differs from other literary works of those times. It also shows that the author has certain objectives that the foreword writers try to trace. Therefore, it works as a guidebook for the readers to understand different aspects of a literary piece.