foil in english literature

foil in english literature

The Role of Foil Characters in English Literature

1. Introduction to Foil Characters

The use of a foil character is primarily intended to highlight specific aspects of a protagonist’s personality by providing several points of comparison. In addition, the physical appearance or status of the foil, which is also a complete contrast to the main character, prompts the audience to weigh the career and conduct of the protagonist in a different light. The starting point of the application of the foil is thus to elicit opposition. Iago, for example, is often considered to be Othello’s big foil. While none of these foils is on the same level as the protagonist, they do influence his actions in important ways and offer a context that reveals oxygen to the protagonist’s character and sets her apart from the password.

A foil character is a minor character whose situation or actions parallel those of a major character and, by contrast, clarifies certain elements of the major character. In its simplest form, a foil character usually has at least one quality in sharp contrast to the corresponding major character, which makes the particular element of their status or deeds of the major character stand out clearly. One of the major functions of a foil character is to emphasize, by contrast, a particular quality or characteristic. The contrast to be established can vary from a simple physical difference (black and white, old and young, ugly and beautiful, good and evil, high social rank and low social rank, poverty and wealth) to a difference in ethical stand (vice and virtue) and to a difference in personal attributes based on psychological characteristics (bravery and cowardice, kindliness and harshness, wisdom and foolishness, etc.). It is used as a technique in drama not only for its effectiveness but also for its economy.

2. Characteristics and Functions of Foils

Essentially, these characters become what the circumstances allow them to be. We will see a number of characters appearing in many roles. Many of them seem to be absolute stars or meteorites appearing in the sphere. But they often arouse our interest not because of our attitude towards them visually but because by watching or examining them, we ourselves feel involved in a kind of humanly generic cross-section by finding ourselves or our superiors. Their function is to involve us with an extension of ourselves or to put ourselves into the shoes of some of its members. The thesis is not a newer or more candid point of departure, nor is it posited on observation of the methodological instruction since the number of the characters will be directly related to the nature and limitation of the circumstance. The imaginary characters, on the other hand, support or resolve the role of the conflict. We will call these flat characters foils. They are flat characters whose one outstanding but exaggerated feature allows the playwright to focus our attention on one aspect of the conflicts underlining the given action. It could serve as a mirror in our search for ourselves or a mirror held up by the author in order to show his mirrors to his characters as well if his reflective property has taken place.

After learning about different kinds of characters, we can draw a simple model of flat characters in terms of their functions in the story. To make ourselves clear, we will use the basic principle in differential anatomy of using supporting or resolvable characters (real characters) in contrast to the main characters (imaginary characters) we have talked about. We call these characters real characters when they are generally portrayed in vivid details meant to make them appear particular and realistic. We call them imaginary characters in comparison with the main characters, who are emphasized, exaggerated, romanticized, demonized, and flat enough to belong to the realm of dream and legend. The real characters are really living out the roles that would be assigned to such people under some artificial circumstances. The way the character is shaped will vary from a mere silhouette to a certain fullness of description but without either the dramatic or the narrative emphasis being overly concerned with the strange notion that any character deserves undeserved attention, and there are ideal types as well as flat types.

3. Examples of Foil Characters in Classic English Literature

There are countless examples of foil characters in literature; here are a few: In Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Heathcliff is the protagonist, and Edgar Linton is his foil character. Heathcliff is all dark and brooding, and Edgar Linton is always good-natured, sweet, and well-meaning. Another example is The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, in which Roger Chillingworth is the dark, evil foil to the most saintly and pure name, resembling Arthur. In Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Literature Heathcliff serves as a foil character to the prose; the qualities of his foil character, Edgar Linton, contrast slightly from the unsociable protagonist, and therefore help define Heathcliff. In Moby Dick, Melville uses Ahab as the main character and sets him off against Starbuck, who is his foil. These examples should give an idea of how writers of all types make use of foil characters, technically known as foils. Every character is either a profound character who reflects the true meaning of the story or an influential character who merely serves as a shading for an enhanced impact of the profound character.

“Foil” in literature is the term for a character who, by contrast to another character, stresses the qualities of the other character. A foil character in works of literature is a character who is juxtaposed to another character, typically the protagonist. The purpose of the foil character is to emphasize and contrast some important qualities and attributes of the main character – that is, to highlight the strengths, weaknesses, or sometimes just the ordinary features of the main character.

4. The Impact of Foils on Plot Development and Theme Exploration

Jane Austen often employed the use of a foil. In “Emma”, Frank Churchill, Jane Fairfax, and Mr. Knightley were all foils. For example, Frank Churchill is a romantic and clever man, while Mr. Knightley, the proper male lead in the novel, is a realistic and sensible man. The contrast between the two characters makes Mr. Knightley stand out even more. In “Northanger Abbey”, Isabella was a foil to Catherine. The two characters were different in every aspect: behavior, action, morality, appearance; therefore Catherine’s distinctive personality is emphasized. In “Pride and Prejudice”, Lydia and Elizabeth are the contrasts to each other. The popularity of using the same types of foil throughout all of her works, as well as the great effect it has on the audience, makes the use of foil the unique characteristic of Jane Austen. The identification and application of foil characters also play an important role in English literature. The use of foil characters is deep-rooted and reflects social culture atmosphere and the features of the self-consciousness of the author.

An author often includes a foil character in a work, enhancing and sharpening the focus of the heroes and villains. The author provides readers with small chinks in the foil characters’ masks, allowing us glimpses of their characteristics. Although the foils serve merely to enhance the emphasis upon the hero through contrast, they are crucial to authors in that they allow the personalities of the heroes to be inexorably etched on the readers’ minds without the need of elaborate descriptions or appraisals. In literature, minor characters often act as a foil to the main characters. In terms of personality, destiny or physical attributes, the foil characters serve to highlight the notable characteristics of the main characters of the work. Beatrice Joanna serves as a foil for the Duchess Matilda, in “The Revenger’s Tragedy” by Cyril Tourneur. Just like female characters such as Desdemona in “Othello” and Eve in “Paradise Lost”, who criticize and express doubt towards their lovers or God, Beatrice Joanna also exists as a male-bashing voice, expressing hatred and towering emotions towards males. However, she chooses to deceive her husband and her lover at the same time to achieve her own goals and desires.

5. The Evolution of Foil Characters in Modern English Literature

To come to some reflection about the possible trends of the development of foil characters, it must be said that some large cycles of the similarity of these characters or their multiplication in the main character’s environment cannot yet be determined. It can be assumed that in different historical periods, foil characters play the role of this foil mainly in relation to specific traits of the main hero. In the region of modern English literature, these characters are presented mainly as the main character’s opprimitive self that stop their main character’s progressive development. These can be some destructive vitivyoluses, unwise advisors, immoral models, or blind flatterers. They serve as measuring instruments to help young protagonists make decisions.

The role of the foil character in English literature is to enhance the main character by providing a measuring stick for specific traits of the protagonist. Often, a foil identity serves as the perfect complement for the protagonist while providing them with guidance and mentorship. In most cases, the protagonist is accompanied by at least one foil who serves as their moral compass, reasoning, or guidance. Shakespeare bestowed several contrasting characters with this foil role in his classic works: Mercutio as a foil to Romeo and the cautious Polonius as opposed to the vacillating Hamlet. Moreover, foil characters are commonly used by British novelists to provide moral support and advice for the main character. This trend began with the novel Don Quixote, first published by the Spanish author Cervantes in 1605, where Sancho Panza served as a perfect contrast to the addicted television viewer. Additionally, British writers commonly present an illicit teacher or a substitute teacher to help the main character pass exams. Finally, in youth detective and spy stories, an amateur mentor receives this foil role.

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