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Literature is full of binaries, which create meaning and function. Classic fairy tales are replete with patterns, symbols and binaries that use opposites to promote certain ideologies, convey certain messages. In the tale of Snow White, the structure followed is that of a sheltered beauty whose kind heart and attractiveness make her a ‘pure’ heroine who is put into unfortunate conditions by a bitter antagonist – here, her stepmother who envy’s her youth and beauty. She undergoes hardship and trials, eventually rescued by a handsome prince who is charmed by her beauty and marries her. Here the function of beauty and ‘good’ is prominent.
The story contains binaries like good and evil, beautiful and ugly. These binaries represent ideologies on beauty and ugliness, on what’s considered good and evil. We see the Prince falling in love with Snow White because of her beauty, the same reason she falls for his handsome charm. As characters too Snow White and the Prince both embody beauty, kindness and generally attractive qualities representing the good – directly contrasting the greedy, ugly antagonists who embody the evil. In this tale the Queen is ugly inside and uses beauty to stay in power, proving it’s perceived value.
In Snow White, the Queen is jealous of Snow White’s beauty and orders her to be killed. It is her beauty which endears her to the dwarves she meets and what draws the Prince to her in the first place. Hence, beauty is not only the cause of the issue but also the solution – wat ultimately proves to be her salvation and leads to a happy ending. The same way beauty is attributed to good, ugly is attributed to evil. Though the stepmother looks beautiful, she is described as an ugly witch on the inside. Later she becomes that ugly woman and dies unhappily.
Another binary that exists is that of nobility and commoners. Snow White immediately falls in love with the handsome man wearing rich clothes, with the fine horse and promise of a fine life. However, characters like the huntsman who saves her or the dwarves who help her represent the commoners, the ‘side’ characters who don’t get the same importance or attention as the prince. This reflects class ideologies, the idea of associating wealth and status to happily ever after and using the commoners to highlight the positive characteristics of the protagonists and her beau. These types of structure results in internalisation of valuing beauty, status and wealth.
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