Mirroring Characters

Two children, one rich, one poor, who look just alike, change places. That's the basis of Twain's The Prince and the Pauper. He uses the boys, alike in everything but expectation and upbringing, to show and satirize the conditions of both rich and poor during the reign of Henry VIII.

Two men, alike enough to be brothers, love the same woman. One goes to the guillotine in the other's place, because the other is the woman's husband. Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.

Two men inhabit the same body. One is a monster loving pleasure and cruelty, the other an altruistic physician trying to destroy the evil in the human psyche—Stevenson's Dr. Jeckylland Mr. Hyde.

It's like the experimental variable I just discussed. Two characters who in some meaningful sense are reflections of one another can highlight either the differences or similarities between them. Or, with foreground figures who are almost alike, contrasts in the backgrounds—their societies or circumstances— are demonstrated more clearly.

Sometimes, though, the resemblance isn't one of appearance but something more subtle: attitude, upbringing, or experience.

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