Infandous- Describing something too horrible to mention.
Infandous by Elana Arnold is one of the best literary pieces of the YA genre that I have ever read. There are numerous examples of literary devices throughout Infandous, today I am going to focus on one—a foil.
Arnold plays with the literary concept of “a foil” between Sephora who is the main character—who argues that she is actually only a supporting character in her life, second to her mother.
A foil, in literature is defined as:
“A character that shows qualities that are in contrast with the qualities of another character with the objective to highlight the traits of the other character. The term foil, though generally being applied for a contrasting character, may also be used for any comparison that is drawn to portray a difference between two things. What we observe in literature very often is that a foil is a secondary character who contrasts with the major character to enhance the importance of the major character. The etymology of the term foil testifies the aforementioned assertion as the word “foil” is taken from the practice of backing gems with foil (tool) so that they shine more brightly.”
Some of my favorite lines from Infandous are when Sephora explains her mother as a mermaid:
My Mom, Rebecca Golding, was born in the sea. She was the most beautiful of all the mermaids, her hair shinier, her tail shimmerier, her voice more captivating that any other fish girl’s…..And then a wave came—boiling, insistent, it bore her to the ocean’s surface and threw her far and fast, and she tumbled, head over tail, again and again, until she landed coughing and sputtering and drowning in air on the sandy beach…And she grew up like that, a fish out of water, too beautiful to really pass for one of us. Her hair, even on land, seemed to float as if in water. She moved like liquid gold, crossing her legs, gesturing with long, beautiful fingers, and her mermaid heartbeat in her chest all the while.
She sets up this glorious, otherworldly description of her mother, but describes herself like this:
I didn’t have her beauty—my hair was frizzy with static, tangled and quarrelsome, not ethereal and floaty like hers. My movements weren’t liquid beauty. People didn’t turn to follow me with their eyes, not like they did with her.
Clearly we see how Sephora views herself when compared to her mother. There are pages that describe the beauty of Rebecca, but Sephora only allows a few general, unpleasant descriptions of herself. Arnold, in my opinion, used a foil very wisely to help the reader understand the way Sephora views her herself in comparison to her mother.
Infandous is bursting with literary themes. I highly recommend reading this book. The imagery, characters, and twists will haunt you.