Analysis of James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues

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James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues tells the story of the narrator and his brother and the hardships that they must endure. As Kahlil Gibran States “Out of suffering have emerged the strangest souls, the most massive characters are seared with scars.” (Gibran). In that very quote the real light is shown as it informs the reader that with suffering comes growth and once the person whomever it may be emerges out of the darkness they may have scars but it has made them stronger. The theme of light and darkness as well as suffering play a vital part in this story. For both men there are times in which they have the blues and suffer in the darkness of their lives but music takes the suffering from them.

First, the very sorrow that the characters in this story face is that of racial discrimination a form of darkness. It is noted in the very first paragraph “I stared at it in the swinging lights of the subway car, and in the faces and bodies of the people, and in my own face, trapped in the darkness that roared outside.”(58) The setting of this story takes place in Harlem, New York. The city of Harlem is notoriously known for its inner city, poverty stricken population and mostly as a location in which to find African Americans. “These boys now, were living as we’d been living then they were growing up with a rush and their heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities.” (59). The story Sonny’s Blues was written in the 1950’s which clearly segregation was still indeed active and the African Americans were lynched by the darkness of their skin tone. In the 1950’s the chance of an African American becoming successful especially with coming from the ghetto was extremely low. In the time frame that presents itsel...

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...ents the light in all of this darkness. Scotch is a dark liquid and Milk is a light liquid. “Freedom lurked around us and I understood at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen.” This is the moment of actualization that the narrator finally understands his brothers’ pain and see’s it in a different light. The narrator sees this in the sense of sound particularly through music that is eventually how they both were freed.

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. “Sonny’s Blues.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia.12th ed. New York: Pearson, 2013.58-78.Print.

Gibran, Kahlil. “Quotes by Kahlil Gibran” Goodreads. n.p., n.d.09 Feb 2014

Tackach, James. “ The Biblical Foundation of James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” Renascence59.2 (2007) 109-118. Literary Reference Center Plus.web.16 Feb 2014

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