Foil is a literary device that involves the use of a character who contrasts with another character in order to highlight certain qualities or traits of the other character. The foil character is often portrayed as a contrast to the protagonist or another important character in the story. This contrast can be used to emphasize the differences between the two characters, highlight certain themes or motifs, or provide a better understanding of the protagonist’s qualities. Foil characters can be similar in many ways but differ in key areas, or they can be completely opposite in terms of personality, behavior, or beliefs.
Examples of foil:
In Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet,” Mercutio serves as a foil to Romeo. While Romeo is romantic and impulsive, Mercutio is cynical and practical.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby,” the character Tom Buchanan serves as a foil to Jay Gatsby. While Gatsby is idealistic and hopeful, Tom is cynical and self-centered.
In J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, the character Neville Longbottom serves as a foil to Harry Potter. While Harry is brave and confident, Neville is initially shy and insecure.
In William Golding’s novel “Lord of the Flies,” the characters Ralph and Jack serve as foils to each other. While Ralph represents civilization and order, Jack represents savagery and chaos.
In Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice,” the character Elizabeth Bennet serves as a foil to her sister Jane. While Jane is sweet and reserved, Elizabeth is outspoken and independent.