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Gawain and Binary Opposition As a contemporary American reader it is all right to assume that the first scene in which the particular character is involved drastically shapes our opinion of characters in a particular novel or poem Immediately we jump to conclusions about what is right and what is wrong who is the good guy and who is the bad guy In fact once we get an initial impression from a character it is unlikely that this opinion will change as we continue to read on unless of course some drastic events take place Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an excellent example of a poem where first impressions may not be the most important to the reader As the opening scene unfolds we are introduced to a Green Knight who seems extremely high on himself and Gawain who seems full of confidence and is ready to take on any challenge However the events that take place later in the poem will most definitely have an impact on the way we view each character individually We are automatically forced to take sides one of the characters is bad and one of them is good It is absurd for someone to think that this not be the case when two people confront each other in such a dramatic opening scene By looking at the incidents that happen throughout the course of the poem you can begin to see just how binary opposition can be reversed Charles Bressler in his book entitled Literary Criticism defines binary opposition by saying that for each center there exists an opposing center Godhumankind for example 125 In this case the opposition revolves around the moral character of both Gawain and the Green Knight The two characters themselves can be said to be binary opposition Bressler expands by saying that Western philosophy holds that in each of these binary operations or two opposing centers one
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