The Light and Darkness of Suffering Depicted in Sonny's Blues Essay

The Light and Darkness of Suffering Depicted in Sonny's Blues Essay

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All of humanity suffers at one point or another during the course of their lives. It is in this suffering, this inevitable pain, that one truly experiences life. While suffering unites humankind, it is how we choose to cope with this pain that defines us as individuals. The question becomes do we let suffering consume us, or do we let it define our lives? Through James Baldwin’s story, “Sonny’s Blues”, the manner by which one confronts the light and darkness of suffering determines whether one is consumed by it, or embraces it in order to “survive.” Viewing a collection of these motifs, James Baldwin’s unique perspective on suffering as a crucial component of human development becomes apparent. It is through his compassionate portrayal of life’s inescapable hardships that one finds the ability to connect with humankind’s general pool of hardship. James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” makes use of the motifs of darkness and light to illuminate the universal human condition of suffering and its coping mechanisms.
Baldwin’s story presents the heart breaking portrayal of two brothers who have become disconnected through respective life choices. The narrator is the older brother who has grown past the depravity of his childhood poverty. The narrator’s profession as an algebra teacher reflects his need for a “black” and “white,” orderly outlook on life. The narrator believes he has escaped life’s sufferings until the death of his daughter and the troubling news about his brother being taken in for drug possession broadside him to the reality of life’s inevitable suffering. In contrast, his brother, Sonny has been unable to escape his childhood hardships and has ended up on the wrong side of the law. While their lives have taken ...


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...ks Cited
American Masters: James Baldwin, About the Author. 29 November 2006. April 2012 .
Baldwin, James. "Sonny's Blues." Miller, Quentin and Julie Nash. Connections: Literature for Composition. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. 984-1006.
Reuben, Paul P. PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. Chapter 10: James Baldwin (1924-1987). 3 November 2011. April 2012 .
Werner, Craig, Thomas J. Taylor and Robert McClenaghan. Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition: James Baldwin. April 2003. .

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