Double – counterpart, substitute, a
person just like another
The Double
 “The Double” in literature may be represented by
twins or similar character s who seem alike in manner.
Symbolically, the double may be “seen” in mirrors,
bodies of water, or shiny objects capable of reflection.
 Shakespeare often used twins or mistaken identities as
plot complications such as Lysander and Demetrius in
A Midsummer’s Night Dream or Hero and her maid
Margaret in Much Ado about Nothing.
In A Midsummer’s Night Dream,
Puck enchants Lysander by mistake
instead of Demetrius.
In Much Ado about Nothing, Hero’s
maid Margaret is mistaken for her
“The Secret Sharer” Joseph Conrad
 The Captain and the mysterious stranger, Leggett are
interpreted to be double images. Yet one image haunts
the other.
Doppelganger –German for
“double goer”, a mysterious double
The doppelganger may be one
entity, two people, or person and
Mary Shelley - Frankenstein
 The novel portrays a creator haunted by his creation, a
creation haunted by his creator.
The Foil
 Foil – literally a leaf of bright metal placed under a
jewel to increase its brilliance. In literature, the foil is
any character who contrasts and enhances the
distinctive qualities of another character.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
has multiple foil doubles.
Along with Frodo and Sam, other
foils are Gandalf and Saruman.
King Theoden of Rohan and King
Denethor of Gondor
Brothers Boromir and Faramir of
Tolkien’s foils were all driven by the
power of the Ring.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and
Mercutio have different views of
Romeo – “Under love’s
heavy burthen do I sink”
Mercutio – “If love be
rough with you, be rough
with love.”
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
 Knowles created two characters , Gene and Finny,
whose differences as foils are more subtle. Although
both young men strive to survive a competitive prep
school and a world at war, they cope in vastly different
 Gene is a realist, a pragmatist. Finny lives in a fantasy
Gene confesses his wrong, tries to
make amends. Finny pretends it
never happened.
Sometimes a minor character
forces the foils to confront each
other. Leper for example.
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
 Potok creates two young American Jewish men coming
of age during WWII. Reuven Malters is an orthodox
Jew; Danny Saunders is a Hasidic Jew.
 Reuven and his father speak openly and honestly.
Danny is raised in silence. He and his father speak
only to study Talmud.
 Reuven rejects the life of a teacher to become a rabbi;
Danny rejects the life of a tzaddik to become a
 Through Reuven’s friendship, Danny develops a “soul”,
a compassion for others. Reuven learns tolerance.
. . . A friendship that began in
violence and grew in compassion.
Doubles, doubles, foils and
troubles . . .
 Comparing and contrasting literary doubles,
doppelgangers, and foils expand our understanding of
character development and theme.
 First consider the characters’ likenesses. What
commonalities do they share? Use exact details (facts)
and quotes from the text to support commentary
noting the similarities.
 Next examine what makes the characters unique unto
themselves. Do the characters have opposite world
views? Do they react oppositely to the same
circumstances? Is one the yin to the other’s yang?
The Theme’s the Thing
 Finally, analyze what theme (observation about life)
the storyteller is making by developing characters of
such antithesis.
 How did each character evolve? Why?
 Theme topics to remember are good and evil,
redemption and loss, choice and fate.
Don’t be afraid to go through the
looking glass!
Works Cited
 Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Harcourt
Brace: Fort Worth, 1999.
 Evans, Blakemore, Ed. The Riverside Shakespeare.
Houghton Mifflin Co.: Boston, 1997.
 Harmon, William and C. Hugh Holman. A Handbook
to Literature. Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, N.J.,
 Tolkien, J.R.R. The Return of the King. Houghton
Mifflin Co.: Boston, 1993.

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