Powered by
Share this page on
Article provided by Wikipedia

"Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho Panza, as illustrated by "Gustave Doré: the characters' contrasting qualities[1] are reflected here even in their physical appearances

In fiction, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character - usually the "protagonist— to highlight particular qualities of the other character.[2][3][4] In some cases, a subplot can be used as a foil to the main plot. This is especially true in the case of "metafiction and the ""story within a story" motif.[5] The word foil comes from the old practice of backing gems with foil to make them shine more brightly.[6]

A foil usually either differs dramatically or is extremely similar but with a key difference setting them apart. The concept of a foil is also more widely applied to any comparison that is made to contrast a difference between two things.[7] "Thomas F. Gieryn places these uses of literary foils into three categories, which Tamara A. P. Metze explains as: those that emphasize the heightened contrast (this is different because ...), those that operate by exclusion (this is not X because...), and those that assign blame ("due to the slow decision-making procedures of government...").[8]

Examples from literature[edit]

In "Frankenstein, by "Mary Shelley, the two main characters—"Dr. Frankenstein and his "creature"—are both together literary foils, functioning to compare one to the other.

In "Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice, Mary's absorption in her studies places her as a foil to her sister "Lydia Bennet's lively and distracted nature.[9]

In The Snake in my Boot, the two characters fight to claim the snake. Through the pages, the reader will come to realize JM and MM are opposites.

Similarly, in "Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar, the character Brutus has foils in the two characters Cassius and Mark Antony.[10] Shakespeare commonly used foils in his plays. In the play "Romeo and Juliet, "Romeo and "Mercutio serve as character foils for one another, as well as "Macbeth and "Banquo in his play "Macbeth.

In "William Shakespeare's tragedy "Hamlet, a foil is created between "Laertes (Hamlet) and "Prince Hamlet to elaborate the differences between the two men.[11] In Act V Scene 2, Prince Hamlet tells Laertes that he will "fence with him and states, "I'll be your "foil, Laertes" (5.2.272).[12] This word play reveals the foil between Hamlet and Laertes, that was developed throughout the novel.

In the "Harry Potter series, "Draco Malfoy can be seen as a foil to the "Harry Potter character; "Professor Snape enables both characters "to experience the essential adventures of self-determination"[13] but they make different choices; Harry chooses to oppose "Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters, whereas Draco eventually joins them.

George and Lennie are foils to each other in John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men. Lennie is huge and strong as a bull but is also mentally slow, while on the other hand George is small, skinny and very smart.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Corwin, Norman (1 April 1978). Holes in a stained glass window. L. Stuart. "ISBN "9780818402555. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "foil | literature | Encyclopædia Britannica". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  3. ^ "Home : Oxford English Dictionary". Oed.com. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  4. ^ Auger, Peter (August 2010). The Anthem Dictionary of Literary Terms and Theory. Anthem Press. pp. 114–. "ISBN "9780857286703. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  5. ^ "Chegg Study | Guided Solutions and Study Help | Chegg.com". Cramster.com. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  6. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Etymonline.com. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  7. ^ "Define Foil at Dictionary.com". Original publisher, Collins World English Dictionary, reprinted at Dictionary.com. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  8. ^ Metze, Tamara Antoine Pauline (2010). Innovation Ltd. Eburon Uitgeverij B.V. pp. 61–. "ISBN "9789059724532. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  9. ^ Leverage, Paula (2011). Theory of Mind and Literature. Purdue University Press. pp. 6–. "ISBN "9781557535702. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  10. ^ Marrapodi, Michele (1 March 2011). Shakespeare and Renaissance Literary Theories: Anglo-Italian Transactions. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 132–. "ISBN "9781409421504. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  11. ^ Hamlet : New Critical Essays. Kinney, Arthur F., 1933-. New York: Routledge. 2001. pp. 215–230. "ISBN "0815338767. "OCLC 45963065. 
  12. ^ Shakespeare, William (2012). The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. p. 275. "ISBN "978-0-7434-7712-3. 
  13. ^ Heilman, Elizabeth E. (5 August 2008). Critical Perspectives on Harry Potter. Taylor & Francis US. pp. 93–. "ISBN "9780203892817. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
) ) WikipediaAudio is not affiliated with Wikipedia or the WikiMedia Foundation.