Foil (literature)  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Google
Wikipedia
Wiktionary
Wiki Commons
Wikiquote
Wikisource
YouTube
Shop


Featured:
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Enlarge
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In fiction, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character —usually the protagonist— to highlight particular qualities of the other character. 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. The word foil comes from the old practice of backing gems with foil to make them shine more brightly.

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. 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...").

Examples from literature

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.

Similarly, in Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, the character Brutus has foils in the two characters Cassius and Mark Antony.

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" but they make different choices; Harry chooses to oppose Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters, whereas Draco eventually joins them.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Foil (literature)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools