Monday, February 23, 2009

Appearance vs. Reality in Theater

My chosen binary for exploration and deconstruction is that between appearance and reality. In the initial setting it appears that greater privilege is given to appearance. This can be seen in the character John. “Light streaks down upon him from a window high above… Life of the house and of the slowly awakening stage swirls to the body of John, and thrills it” (Toomer, 52). Pictured in this light John is immediately the hero of the scene. We learn, however, that the reality of his personality is the stronger actor.
The appearances of the beautiful Dorris, also, at first are more privileged than her actual characteristics: “Above the staleness, one dancer throws herself into it. Dorris… Her own glowing is too rich a thing…” (53). Dorris dances, Dorris dances, Dorris dances. Her physicality is apparently a very strong actor in the scene.
By all appearances these are two solid characters. To the viewers of this setting in the Howard Theater, appearances are given privilege over reality. But to the reader just the opposite is the case. For underneath these appearances, reality is the greater actor in the story.
It is clear that “John’s body is separate from the thoughts that pack his mind” (52). Because of this, he is able to realize that the same is true of Dorris. He observes her subtle indications, “The leading lady fits loosely in the front. Lack-life, monotonous” (53), and sees that “Her suspicion would be greater than her passion.” Behind Dorris’ apparent physical passion, the real thoughts in her mind reveal what really is going on: “[I] can’t win him to respect [me]…” (55). Her physical passion is just a face.
The weight of this reality holds the greater privilege over appearance in this classic binary. An old proverb (that I'm sure exists) comes to mind: "The heart of a man is the man."

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