Biblical and Religious Themes in "Sonny's Blues" Essay

Biblical and Religious Themes in "Sonny's Blues" Essay

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James Baldwin’s short story, “Sonny’s Blues,” is the authors most studied and critically analyzed piece of literature. The majority of these analyses focus on the obvious themes of the book such as jazz music, the unnamed narrator, or the rift that divides Sonny and his brother. Little critique has ever gone into the biblical and religious themes that run throughout the story of “Sonny’s Blues.” Furthermore, it is even more astonishing that there is little critique given Baldwin has such a strong history with the world of Christianity.
James Tackach wrote that it should not come as a surprise that Baldwin would use stories or references from the Bible as a foundation for his literature (109). Baldwin was practically raised in the church. Born in the Harlem District of New York on August 2, 1924, he grew up poor with 8 siblings in a very religious home. Baldwin’s stepfather was a preacher and strict authoritarian which lead to a very tumultuous relationship (Champion 5). At the age of fourteen, Baldwin began preaching at a Pentecostal church, however, that did not last. He became disenchanted with the church and left. At eighteen he moved to New Jersey. Later in his life, he moved to Greenwich Village area of New York, which was known for its abundance of artists and writers. He later left the states because of the uprising of racism and settled in France until his death (Champion 5). At the age of 63, Baldwin died in Saint-Paul de Vence, France.
Perhaps the most compelling and obvious use of biblical reference is the ending line of the story. While Sonny’s band takes a break, the narrator buys Sonny a drink. The drink is set upon Sonny’s piano, but he does not immediately drink from the cup, but just before the band began to ...


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...kness could represent the battle between good and evil.
“Critical discussion of “Sonny’s Blues” has centered on secular matter. Acknowledging the complex interweaving of biblical text that forms the foundation of Baldwin’s short story allows readers the chance to understand and appreciate Baldwin’s significant debt to biblical literature and to grapple with the religious and moral issues at the core of this Christian writer’s most important literary effort” (Byerman 111). Baldwin is a very poignant writer and the majority of his stories are influenced by his experiences during his life. “Sonny’s Blues” is no exception as Baldwin poetically weaves religion and his beliefs through the short story. Even though Baldwin left the religious society at a young age, it was never truly able to leave his writing as evident in “Sonny’s Blues” and his other published works.

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