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Music as Salvation in Sonny’s Blues, by James Baldwin

Satisfactory Essays
In the story, Sonny’s Blues, James Baldwin uses music, jazz, and hymns to shape the story and show how it shapes Sonny’s life and how music is inherent to his survival. All of this is seen through the older brother’s eyes; the older brother is the narrator and the reader begins to understand Sonny through the older brother’s perspective. Baldwin writes the story like a jazz song to make a story out of his father’s past and his brother’s career choice and puts them together, going back and forth, until it creates a blending of histories and lives. He shows how the father’s past is similar to the narrator’s life; the older brother has conflicts with his younger brother, Sonny. Music heals the relationship.

Music is a thread throughout the story. In the boys’ childhood, Sonny always loved to play piano; to him that was a way of escaping his environment. Music for Sonny was a way of expressing himself and interpreting the world. Sometimes Sonny felt when he was staying at his older brother’s house, his brother’s wife did not understand Sonny’s mode of communication. This refusal forces him into the streets. When Sonny plays music that’s how he blocks out the world that doesn’t understand him and his passion.

There was a point in the story where Sonny and the older brother are watching a church revival group. The older brother does not see Sonny until later in the song; that was the starting point when the older brother realizes how important music is to Sonny. Sonny escapes from everything when he plays piano. The older brother meets Sonny back at the apartment and they watch the church scene through the apartment window.

Music is a way for the brothers to express their feelings and understand each other. Later in the stor...

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... it sounded very cool and moving through all that harsh, bright air, only just holding its own through all those other sounds” (50). This gives a story move of a melody the way he puts descriptions into the paragraph from the start you already can tell the story is going to be about music. Here are few examples that Baldwin gives “juke box was blasting away something black and bouncy and I half watched the barmaid as she danced her way from the juke box to her place behind the bar” (52). This gives a good explanation of music and how it makes people feel alive and joyful.

The idea of music as a salvation runs through the story. Music keeps Sonny sane and off drugs; music enables Sonny’s older brother to see a different side of Sonny; music brings people together. Without music, there would be a disconnect between the brothers. Music keeps the family together.
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