In the short-story “Theater”, Jean Toomer uses an abundance of binaries that help construct relationships. The binaries present in the story don’t work completely independent of each other. Throughout the story there are two actions, or one lack thereof, which causes these seemingly, disconnected binaries to work off each other; causing one of the binaries to become disrupted due to the others influence. The two binaries in the story that I feel work off each other are male/female, and motion/stationary.
As the story progresses, so does the readers understanding of John’s (the protagonist) persona. The story first introduces John “seated at the center of the theater, just before [dance] rehearsals” (52). Based off this brief introduction of John and his position in the cabaret, one can presume that he enjoys gazing upon beautiful woman. Throughout the story, the female role seems to conform to the idea of an enticer. Because all the females in the story are dancers, it can be assumed that they use their bodies to entice men into certain things: giving money, sexual fantasies. This specific binary seems to be rather concrete in its role in the story.
In the story there are specific roles that each particular gender seems to cohere to. These specific gender roles seem like they can be understood as common gender stereotypes among certain cultures. As a product of these common stereotypes of men as a gazer, and the woman as an enticer, spawns the reversal of another set of particular gender stereotypes. A common stereotype for a male is that they more actively pursue a potential mate. This isn’t saying that women don’t possess this sex drive, but it is more commonly associated with men. The second binary in this story is that of motion/stationary. This particular binary disrupts the preconceived notions we had about the commonalities of gender stereotypes.
Understood from the aforementioned stereotypes, is that men are more commonly the aggressor when it comes to sex. Throughout the story “Theater, Jean Toomer develops a male character who has these sexual urges, but is reluctant to act upon them. This lack of action causes a reversal in the understood stereotypes of males and females. Throughout the story John never leaves his stationary position in the cabaret; while Dorris is constantly dancing to convey her desire for him sexually. Because of this reversal of actions the male becomes the stationary (less aggressive) gender, while the female assumes the motion (more aggressive) role.
As a result of the influence of another binary, a once seemingly concrete binary becomes disrupted. With an abundance of binaries present in the story, it is inevitable that they will begin to influence another.