My Brilliant Friend

by Elena Ferrante

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What are the specific activities and qualities that make Donato and Nino foil characters?

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Donato and Nino Sarratore are very similar to each other, but they act as a foil in a way to the men of Naples. Both of the Sarratore men are attractive to women due to their differences from other men. Many of the men in Naples are described as animalistic, violent, and backwards; they are almost caricatures of ogres. Donato and Nino are refined, educated, poetic, and slim.

At the same time, both are narcissistic and careless, sexually avaricious, and damaging to others. Their inflated sense of self-worth enables them to both betray their family and their mistresses. Neither really seems to learn the lessons that their actions beg to be understood.

Nino says of his father, "He knew perfectly well she was a fragile woman, but he took her anyways." While Nino scorns his father, especially his treatment of Melina, Nino himself is not without fault for his relationship with both Lenu and Lila. Because these men seem to promise the women trapped in Naples's violence a more refined life, they are able to get away with behavior that other, less talented men cannot. As a result, their violence is more emotionally scarring.

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