The Presence of Darkness in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues Essay

The Presence of Darkness in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues Essay

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The Presence of Darkness in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues


In the story Sonny's Blues the author, James Baldwin, uses the image of darkness quite frequently. He uses it first when the older brother (main character) talks about his younger brother Sonny. He says that when Sonny was younger his face was bright and open. He said that he didn't want to believe that he would ever see his "brother going down, coming to nothing, all that light in his face gone out." Meaning he had gone from good (clean and innocent) to bad ( giving into drugs like so many of the other young people).

The older brother then goes on to talk about his students and how they had limited possibilities stating that "all they really knew were two darknesses, the darkness of their lives, which was know closing in on them, and the darkness of the movies, which had blinded them to that other darkness, and in which they now vindictively dreamed, at once more together than they were at any time and more alone." He believes that there is little opportunity for these kids to get out of the pretty much doomed future they have with drug addiction and crime being what it is in the city. There was one boy whistling through the "harsh, bright air," while the other boys were laughing in their unforgiving way. The brightness of this boys whistling could symbolise that some of them do get out and make something of themselves ( bright futures).

The author then uses darkness to describe the faces of the adults on Sunday evenings after dinner when everyone is relaxing with their own thought's. "For a moment nobody's talking but every face looks darkening, like the sky outside...The silence, the darkness coming and the darkness in the faces frighten the child obscurel...


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... way they are moving from the bad things all around them into the good, that is, the music. In this way they are in a way escaping from the darkness that is around them every day even if only for a short time. It's the only light they have. This is when the author uses the image of darkness for the last time. " For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness." This supports that their music is the only thing that is totally good in their lives. With all the violence and despair that is around them all of the time, music is the only way they can free themselves.

Work Cited

Baldwin, James. "Sonny's Blues." The Norton introduction to Fiction. 6th ed. Ed. Jerome Beaty. New York: Norton, 1996. 47-70.

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