Thursday, March 10, 2011

Light versus Shadow in Toomer's "Theater"

In Toomer’s “Theater”, Toomer uses light and shadow on John’s face to represent sensuality. Though one of the footnotes states that light represents sensuality overcoming reason and shadow doing the opposite, it is not that simple in the story. The light does not represent sensuality overcoming reason; rather, it seems to represent more of a balance. When the light shines on John’s face, he dwells on Ester. He does not seem to be lost in his sensuality. He never loses his reason; he merely uses it in reference to Ester. However, when his face is covered in shadow, he has decided that he will not court Ester. His dream of life with her made no impact on him and he made a decision to ignore her. This decision does not reflect reason necessarily taking precedence over sensuality. It is more of a choice. Having weighed the possibilities, he decides that he wants nothing to do with Ester. He did not succumb to reason; rather, he succumbed to the expectations of everyone else. In the story, it is apparent that no one believes that John will fall for Ester, with Ester herself being the only exception. In choosing not to court her, John follows the expectations of the people. When the light is on his face, John’s thoughts are balanced between sensuality and reason, and the decisions he makes are his own. When the shadow covers his face, he loses himself to the expectations of those around him; the expectations of those around him eclipse his personality, and this eclipse is made manifest by the shadow that covers his face.

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