Literary Foils and Mirrors
The same…but different.
(I know. Pretty deep stuff.)
Literally, a “leaf” of bright metal placed
under a jewel or art to increase its
brilliance. Contrast underscores distinctive
Pairs of characters whose differences illuminate
the important characteristics in each other
Scar and Simba
Scar is selfish, vain, and evil.
Simba is self-sacrificing, loyal, and righteous.
Katniss and Peeta
Peeta’s gentle and sweet personality contrast with
Katniss’s rational, sometimes cold independence.
Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort
Harry Potter believes in honor, truth, and justice.
Voldemort is a staunch evildoer and considers
Harry’s values foolish.
Foils must have some similar form or
We cannot compare apples and
oranges, after all.
This is where the term mirror comes in.
Literally, a glass surface backed by reflective
material (foil!) that reflects visual images.
A mirror image follows the same form and
A mirror image is also OPPOSITE and RELATIVE!
Left is right. Right is left.
The device can influence the reflected image.
Characters who have similar form and/or
function, but oppose each other in some
Foil and Mirror
foil=opposite and mirror=same
These terms are indelibly related and perhaps
more synonym than antonym.
In any case, they…
• add depth to stories
• allow us to appreciate characters and
• reveal theme
Heat soothes in cold weather…
…a cool breeze is a summer delight.
A starry night against a dark sky is a brilliant
treat for our vision.
Without the other, one holds less meaning