Jean Toomer’s “Theater” is a story full of binary, from the oppositions of light and dark, to love and hate. Appearance and reality, however, remains a very dominant theme, and sets the tone for all other binaries within this work. On the surface, “Theater” displays an average show hall, complete with dancers, performers, and directors. In reality, however, a subtle love story erupts between John and Dorris. This too, however, is another depiction of the dichotomy between appearance vs. reality, as there is no real love distributed between the two.
There are several moments of borderline intimacy, as John begins to become enraptured by Dorris’ efforts. His face turns autumn, and his body becomes soft and warm. This outward appearance, however, is a cover for the harsh reality of the cold nature the man possesses. Dorris’ dance is solely for the capture of John’s heart, and after a few brief moments of possible hope, she only “finds it a dead thing in the shadow which is his dream” (Toomer 56). He is a living lie, a brother of a director who has no real power, a race-challenged man, who is a living paradox between appearance and reality.