Thursday, March 3, 2011

Light vs. Dark in Toomer's "Theatre"

In "Theatre," light and dark play an incredibly important role in the plot of the story, but they do so in different ways. By this I mean we should make distinctions between which light we are talking about because different light sources symbolize different concepts within the story. The light that is shining on John's face plays a much different role than the lights shining on the stage. We discussed in class how the light on John's face could be oppressive: it is distracting to those performing and it seems to inhibit John's emotion response to Ester (for once the light goes out, he becomes lost in a dream of his desires). But the stage lights do the opposite. Obviously, they make the stage visible to the viewers, and the dancers use this energy to let go and feel the music, Ester especially.

Despite these differences, there does seem to be some themes that stay consistent through the different types of light. Light/dark seems to equate to reality/imagination in the story. For the stage lights, the light makes the stage and those people on it come alive, giving the dancers a spontaneity and energy to be themselves and show their true colors so-to-speak. Similarly, the light on John's face makes him visible to those on stage. Ester sees his physical body, his skinny body and skinny lips, and questions whether he can fulfill her desires. The dark represents the imagination, for when the light fades and John is in darkness, then he is thrown into a dream state. This idea of imagination coincides with potential. When the stage lights are off and Ester waits in the shadows of the scenery, there is an inherent potential of the performance to come that will begin as soon as the lights turn on. John's half-shadowed face represents a potential for Ester, who can see his face and questions whether he is good enough, but still desires him because of the mysterious half that remains unseen to her, the potential for who he really could be. When the light goes out and darkness overtakes John fully, this potential becomes a lost potential. Ester will never know how John reacted to her dance when the performance ended, and she goes from questioning who he was to crying backstage over him because of these unanswered questions, this lost potential.

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