Monday, February 23, 2009

Light/Dark Binary

The light/dark binary is a dominant dichotomy within Jean Toomer’s “Theatre.” A structuralist reading of the text would suggest that light transcends dark and is therefore the better of the binary. However, it seems apparent to me that Toomer defies this logic by favoring the “dark” aspects of people in “Theatre.” For instance, Toomer dispels the fact that light triumphs over dark/shadow when he first introduces the character John. “One half of his face is orange in it. One half his face is in shadow,” (Toomer 52). Here, Toomer is describing John’s face as it is depicted with two forms of light. Each of these forms of light is an indication of his intellect and his desire. The orange light could be considered the white light or favorable light in this case. However, what is interesting is that Toomer doesn’t favor the light or the shadow; they both have equal hold over John, indicating that dark is equal to light. The next antithesis to the light/dark binary I discovered happens at the end of the story when John’s face is completely covered in shadow. This is an interesting turn of events because the light/dark binary indicates that light always triumphs over the dark, but in this instance the dark has triumphed over the light. The revelation is so shocking that it causes Dorris to run away in horror, and in a way, the situation is ironic because it appeared that Dorris was going to liberate John of his intellect and open him up to his desire. Yet, the opposite happened, and John’s intellect hides his desire. The climax of the story demonstrates that light does not always dominate dark; in fact, it was the dark that overtook the light.

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