A Definition

  • This is when a character is portrayed as opposite of another character in a particular way. By putting the two characters next to each other, the different characteristic is emphasized.
    • This helps readers recognize particular characteristics.

Notable Examples:

  • In pictures:483101804_4dfac47bbd_m.jpgcharacter_foil.jpg

  • In real life: A Boston Globe writer wrote a story casting Lebron James and Kevin Garnett as foils.
  • In story:
    • In Romeo and Juliet, the Friar's patience is a kind of foil to Romeo's haste and passion.
  • In Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, she uses an obvious character foil in this passage:
    • Standing by the bar, in the corner of the room, was a brawny, muscular man, full six feet in height, and broad in proportion. He was dressed in a coat of buffalo-skin, made with the hair outward, which gave him 'a shaggy and fierce appearance, perfectly in keeping with the whole air of his physiognomy. In the head and face every organ and lineament expressive of brutal and unhesitating violence was in a state of the highest possible development. Indeed, could our readers fancy a bull-dog come unto man's estate, and walking about in a hat and coat, they would have no unapt idea of the general style and effect of his physique. He was accompanied by a travelling companion, in many respects an exact contrast to himself He was short and slender, lithe and catlike in his motions, and had a peering, mousing expression about his keen black eyes, with which every feature of his face seemed sharpened into sympathy; his thin, long nose, ran out as if it was eager to bore into the nature of things in general; his sleek, thin, black hair was stuck eagerly forward, and all his motions and evolutions expressed a dry, cautious acuteness. The great man poured out a big tumbler half full of raw spirits, and gulped it down without a word. The little man stood tip-toe, and putting his head first to one side and then the other, and snuffing considerately in the directions of the various bottles, ordered at last a mint julep, in a thin and quivering voice, and with an air of great circumspection. When poured out, he took it and looked at it with a sharp, complacent air, like a man who thinks he has done about the right thing, and hit the nail on the head, and proceeded to dispose of it in short and well-advised sips.
    • p. 122, chapter 8