Sonny's Blues

analytical Essay
1744 words
1744 words

The story “Sonny’s Blues” By James Baldwin is about a jazz musician and his brother in 1950’s Harlem. The story centers on Sonny who uses jazz music as an escape from his depression. James Baldwin captures the art of jazz during this time period. The themes in this short story are perhaps varied, but all of them revolve around some form of suffering. One theme shows how music can promote change and understanding within relationships. A second theme reveals suffering caused by guilt. Yet another theme references the results of suffering brought about by searching for ones’ identity and how that leads to misunderstanding. There are also subthemes concerning racism and poverty. James Baldwin was born in 1924 in Harlem, New York to an unwed mother. His mother married David Baldwin, a strict preacher who never accepted James. The oldest of nine children, Baldwin grew up in extreme poverty. Baldwin lived in Harlem until he moved to Paris due to the racial injustices. He returned to the United States in 1957 and became a major part of the civil rights movement. As one of the most popular authors of his time, Baldwin wrote about different problems such as sexual identity, family, church and life as an African American. (Rampersad) In “Sonny’s Blues,” he shows how a brother uses music to ease his suffering. James Baldwin was able to relate to the pain and suffering that jazz represents. Jazz music prospered in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Jazz was created by African Americans to represent pain and suffering and also represented the adversity that racial tension brought. (Scholastic) African American performers like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie “Bird” Parker came to be recognized for their ability to overcome “race relati... ... middle of paper ...’s suffering are portrayed throughout the story. It eventually leads to a deeper understanding between Sonny and his brother. This has changed and improved their relationship. The brother, through his guilt, came to recognize his role in Sonny’s life. He finally was able to understand what his mother was asking of him. Through the renewal of their relationship, they both learn to accept each other as the persons they really are. Sonny and his brother grew up under the same circumstances; poverty, the temptations that exist from living in Harlem and the racial injustices that exist during this time period. They learn to deal with their individual sufferings in their own way. Suffering can be an intense experience, but can lead to a self awareness that would not otherwise be acknowledged without it.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how baldwin captures the art of jazz during the 1950's harlem era. the themes in the story revolve around some form of suffering.
  • Explains that james baldwin was born in 1924 in harlem, new york to an unwed mother. his mother married david baldwin, a strict preacher who never accepted james.
  • Analyzes how jazz was created by african americans to represent pain and suffering and the adversity that racial tension brought. sonny uses bebop music to express his emotions.
  • Analyzes how the narrator understands that sonny is being true to who he really is. the anonymous brother hasn't found an outlet for his guilt.
  • Analyzes how the narrator, who grew up with his brother in harlem, removed himself from the harshness of a life ruled by poverty.
  • Analyzes how the narrator hears a story from his mother before she died about his father's brother who was killed by white men. his mother asks him to take care of sonny even though he may not be able to stop nothing.
  • Analyzes how james baldwin was a black man, but he didn't allow that to define him. he only presented one example of racism in the story, the death of the brothers' uncle
  • Analyzes how the narrator wanted to escape his harlem upbringing, improve his standard of living, and be considered part of the middle class.
  • Analyzes how james baldwin develops themes related to suffering in "sonny's blues." sonny and his brother both experience significant suffering but take different paths to deal with it.
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