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Foil Definition: a character that exhibits opposite or conflicting traits to another character

Character Foils

Foils are often used to highlight a character’s strengths, or to criticize their weaknesses. By having two opposite characters interacting in similar plot events, the reader gets to see how each character confronts conflict, turmoil, relationships, and moral dilemmas. Usually in the shadow of their opposite, the protagonist’s traits are illuminated to a degree that may not otherwise have been noticed without their foil’s presence. In this way, subtle character traits can become their primary traits, and win an audience’s affection. For example, Romeo’s romantic side is highlighted even more by the crass, innuendo-laden dialogue of Mercutio, who reduces the ideal of love to a series of scornful jokes. Next to Mercutio, Romeo seems innocent and virtuous, making him an even more perfect match for the innocent and virtuous Juliet.

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Notable Foil Character Examples in Literature



Be sure to check out our article, "Foil Characters"!

Learn more about various devices in literature in our Picture Encyclopedia of Literary Elements!
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