Learning to Listen in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues Essay

Learning to Listen in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues Essay

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Learning to Listen in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues


In James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues", the verb, to listen, is employed many times in varying contexts. This theme is developed throughout the story as the narrator learns to listen more closely to the aural stimuli (or sounds) which enter his ears. In order to understand the narrator's heightened degree of perception as it unfolds in "Sonny's Blues", it is necessary to begin with a thorough discussion of hearing and listening in general, and then as they relate to the story.

First, one must understand the distinction between hearing and listening. Hearing is simply the reception of sound waves by the ears. This may happen unconsciously, as is usually the case with soft background noise such as the whoosh of air through heating ducts or the distant murmur of an electric clothes dryer. Sometimes hearing is done semi-consciously; for instance, the roar of a piece of construction equipment might momentarily draw one's attention. Conscious hearing, or listening, involves a nearly full degree of mental concentration. A familiar i...

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