Sunday, February 22, 2009

Examining Binaries in Jean Toomer's "Theater"

Jean Toomer's "Theater" is full of binaries throughout. The one I would like to focus on is motion/stillness. Throughout the entirety of the story, Dorris uses her dancing as a movement to display affection. It is very important to understand that Toomer considered "that individuals could express their emotions and their souls through dancing" (54). Motion dominates the majority of the story. The walls are permeable and the motion of the dancers allows them to display their sexuality: "Dorris dances. She forgets her tricks. She dances. Glorious songs are the muscles of her limbs" (55). Light shines upon those on the dance floor, and Dorris uses this to her advantage, using motion to garner the attention of the man she desires: John. Although movement seems to dominate the story, it actually turns out to be the less dominate of the two binaries. John sits in stillness. A very introverted character, John takes in the entire scene from sitting back in his chair. John internalizes the dancers and "His mind, contained above desires of his body, singles the girls out, and tries to trace origins and plot destinies" (52). With his mind and stillness taking precedent over his own body, John crushes Dorris' hopes of love and affection through his inaction.

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