After reading the short story "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin, I find there are two major themes that Baldwin is trying to convey, suffering and irony. The first theme that he brings out and tries to get the reader to understand is the theme of suffering. The second theme that the author illustrates is the theme of irony.
James Baldwin writes about two African-American brothers growing up in Harlem, a black ghetto in New York, during the 1950's. During this time black people were forced to live in a world of prejudice, discrimination, poverty and suppression. The life of a black person was very difficult; many opportunities afforded to whites were not afforded to blacks. Sonny and his brother lived in the projects and had many obstacles to overcome that white people didn't have to. Sonny chose music to outwardly express his suffering, his brother chose to bottle it up and keep it inside, but this is the common thread they both shared. Suffering is also shown in the story when Baldwin says "it came to me that what we both were seeking through our separate cab windows was that part of ourselves which had been left behind" (P 47). I think this quote means that both Sonny and his older brother want to retrieve some of their past so that it can help them cope with what has happened in their lives. If Sonny and his brother can both cope with what has happened in their lives and get over it, I think t they both can start moving forward and putting this behind them.
I feel having Sonny's brother narrate the story in the first person is Baldwin's way of telling us that Sonny's brother is also suffering but inside, unlike Sonny who takes drugs and sings the blues. Sonny's ...
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...s and work together to form a loving relationship.
In conclusion, the short story "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin brings out two main themes: irony and suffering. You can actually feel the pain that Baldwin's characters experience; and distinguish the two different lifestyles of siblings brought up in the same environment. The older brother remaining nameless is a fabulous touch that really made me want to read on. This really piqued my interest and I feel it can lead to many discussions on why this technique was used. I really enjoyed this story; it was a fast and enjoyable reading. Baldwin keeps his readers thinking and talking long after they have finished reading his stories. His writing technique is an art, which very few, if any, can duplicate.
Baldwin, James. "Sonny's Blues" in Vintage Baldwin. New York: Vintage, 2004.
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