Communicating Through Music In Sonny’s Blues By James Baldwin

2889 words - 12 pages

Historically, strong family relationships have been emphasized by American society. Strong family ties have been significant to maintaining healthy lifestyles and relationships across many cultures, including African American culture. Sonny, the younger brother in James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”, has suffered from a heroin addiction which caused him to separate from both his parents and his older brother. The essay portrays two brothers who struggle with their difficult Harlem environment, cultural issues, and their emotional detachment from one another. As the brothers struggle with their inner conflicts and outward environmental struggles, they are reunited through a common theme in the essay: music. Baldwin empowers Sonny with a gift of extraordinary musicianship, and uses this gift to enlighten and empower the narrator. Baldwin’s essay narrates the trials of the narrator on his journey to self- discovery and the brothers trial of rebuilding their brotherly bond with music as their guide. The essay uses music as a form of communication between the brothers and symbolizes it as a powerful force in their relationship. In Baldwin’s essay, “Sonny’s Blues”, the narrator and Sonny are empowered through music, and through this empowerment, the music is able to rekindle and rebuild the brothers relationship.

During the first half of the 20th century, Harlem became a mecca for African American culture and ideas. Home to the Harlem Renaissance, Harlem housed many influential African American leaders and influenced much of African American culture of the 20th century. Harlem’s population exploded during the 1920s-30s due to the Harlem Renaissance, and continued to expand until reaching its peak during the 1950s. The decade of the 1950s saw many economic hardships in Harlem especially in East Harlem where “Sonny’s Blue’s” is believed to be set. Noreen Mallory argues that Harlem during this period is heavily influenced by “the politics of civil and human rights… [which] were taking root in Harlem (21). Economic hardships and poor housing conditions established in the early 1930s continued to exacerbate political and social issues of the 1950s. African American artists, more specifically musicians, turned to jazz music as a form of expressing their discontent with social and economic issues of the era. According to Eric Porter, Bebop jazz was created in the early 1940s and served as music that encouraged both cultural and social resistance by resisting mainstream ideas and ideals (54-56). The combination of economic and social issues surrounding Harlem during the early 1950s ultimately resulted in a series of major race riots and influenced the emergence of the Civil Rights movement.

Early in the essay, Baldwin creates the idea that both Sonny and his brother lead different and distinct lives in comparison with one another. Both brothers grew up in the east part of Harlem during a time in which major economic and social changes were occurring. As...

Find Another Essay On Communicating Through Music in Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin

Sonny’s Blues, by James Baldwin Essay

958 words - 4 pages Symbolism is such an interesting aspect of stories that when you take the time to sit back and analyze after initially reading it, things seem to pop out at you. Something so small could mean something so great to the story and it may not occur to the reader until they have read through a few times. In “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin, symbolism was used quite a bit to represent different aspects of the story. One main use of symbolism was

Sonny’s Blues, by James Baldwin Essay

696 words - 3 pages Although presenting just a small sample for comparison there are definite points in this story where the lives of Sonny and his brother coincide with that of James Baldwin; the location of the story is from his childhood; the fact that the narrator’s name is never mentioned and the other characters are referred to by their familial position suggests Baldwin’s feelings about his place in his own family; as the oldest child and the only one in the

Drugs and Musicians in “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin

876 words - 4 pages When first reading “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin, it may initially seem that the relationship between musicians and drugs is synonymous. Public opinion suggests that musicians and drugs go hand and hand. The possibility lies that Sonny’s passion for jazz music is the underlying reason for his drug use, or even the world of jazz music itself brought drugs into Sonny’s life. The last statement is what the narrator believes to be true. However

Sibling Influence in The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich and Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin

932 words - 4 pages “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich and “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin, both accounts of brotherly experience shown through separation and drug abuse.      Both “The Red Convertible” and “Sonny’s Blues” revolve around brotherly connection. In “The Red Convertible,” the main speaker Lyman uses his red convertible, one he shares with his brother, as an analogy to their relationship. While reminiscing about his

Illusion in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Birthmark and Sonny’s Blues, by James Baldwin

935 words - 4 pages Illusion can be defined as a distortion of the senses, of reality, and the perception of a dream like world that consumes us. James Baldwin author of the short story “Sonny’s Blues” uses the unique creativity of illusion to therefore draw in his readers. He uses several literary elements including characterization, plot, and setting to express his elaborate use of illusion in this story. Likewise Nathaniel Hawthorne author of the most

Light and Dark in the Book Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin

986 words - 4 pages today face. The narrator has assimilated into society as much as possible, but still understands his limits as a black man. Contrarily, Sonny has never tried to conform and travels a troubled path trying find an outlet for the deep pain and suffering that his status as a permanent outcast forces upon him. Sonny channels his suffering into music and he and his brother are finally able to connect through something in which they never thought existed: the light that Sonny's dark world birthed. Works Cited Baldwin, James. “Sonny’s Blues.” The Jazz Fiction Anthology. Ed. Sascha Feinstein and David Rife. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2009. 17-48.

Racial Injustice in A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry and Sonny’s Blues, by James Baldwin

1939 words - 8 pages someday that injustice, the view that African Americans are inferior will go away, and they will be treated equally like a full human being. The theme of racial injustice is prevalent in both “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry and “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin stories. Both of the stories shows contrasting view on African American people living in fear of racial terrorism, physical harm, housing inequality, and dangerous life in

Themes in Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin

1060 words - 4 pages for white people. I feel this is Baldwin's way of demonstrating to his readers that black America is justified in feeing the pain, suffering and hate brought about by a racist white world. Another theme that James Baldwin brings out in "Sonny's Blues" is the theme of irony. Irony is shown from the start to the end of this story through the direction of lifestyle each brother chose to lead. Isn't it ironic that two brothers brought up

The Jilting of Granny Weatherall, by Katherine Anne Porter and Sonny’s Blues, by James Baldwin

719 words - 3 pages In the short story “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” by Katherine Anne Porter and “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin both authors make a strong connection between lightness and darkness as symbols throughout the story. Dark and Light can represent two opposing forces, whether good and evil or love and hate. In both stories light is used to show calmness and positive elements while darkness is used to show personal problems and negative

Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin

1597 words - 6 pages “Sonny’s Blues” revolves around the narrator as he learns who his drug-hooked, piano-playing baby brother, Sonny, really is. The author, James Baldwin, paints views on racism, misery and art and suffering in this story. His written canvas portrays a dark and continual scene pertaining to each topic. As the story unfolds, similarities in each generation can be observed. The two African American brothers share a life similar to that of their

Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin

2043 words - 8 pages Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin A captivating tale of a relationship between two troubling brothers in Harlem, "Sonny's Blues" is told from the perception of Sonny's brother, whose name is never mentioned. Baldwin's choice of Sonny's brother as a narrator is what makes "Sonny's Blues" significant in terms of illustrating the relationship and emotional complications of Sonny and his brother. The significance of "Sonny's Blues" lies in the way

Similar Essays

Communication In Sonny’s Blues By James Baldwin

1788 words - 8 pages “Sonny’s Blues” is a well known short story, written by James Baldwin. The main conflict in the story is communication between brothers and finding a way to understand each other. Sonny’s brother, who is the narrator of the story, finds himself comfortable teaching algebra that “suggests his desire for standard procedures and elegant, clear-cut solutions” (Murray 353), while Sonny’s passion is playing jazz. The narrator has a hard time

Suffering In Sonny’s Blues, By James Baldwin

985 words - 4 pages of dealing through a good and bad way. Isabel cries every night and has occurring nightmares but she is dealing with the death of her daughter. Sonny’s brother, the narrator, even though it took him a while to deal with his suffering, he cried and finally understood why Sonny tried so hard to say free through music. Suffering can be truly difficult but dealing with it will help you continue to move forward in life. Works Cited Baldwin, James. “Sonny’s Blues.” The Norton Introduction to Literature: Portable Tenth Edition. Ed. Alison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011. 75-101. Print.

Sonny’s Blues, By James Baldwin Essay

1988 words - 8 pages While reading “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin theme, symbolism, and motifs were discovered throughout the entire short story. Sonny one of the two main characters, is dealing with a drug addiction and is now following his dreams of becoming a jazz musician. The narrator, whose name was never given, does his best to keep the promise he made his mother years ago, to be his brother’s keeper. James Baldwin, an African American author, grew up in

Sonny’s Blues, By James Baldwin Essay 1114 Words

1114 words - 5 pages James Baldwin uses Bible stories as a foundation for his own stories. Baldwin once stated, "I was born in the church" ("Notes" 14). He intimately knew and loved the Bible. The King James Bible became his literary text during his Harlem childhood. This is solely because of the fact that he could analyze the text and relate it to his own stories. James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”, exemplifies how his love for the Bible allows him to build a great