James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues Essay

1079 words - 4 pages

In the world of Harlem, New York the cruelties of the world become incandescently prominent. James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” addresses the foreboding power of pain in a world where someone’s coping skills dictate the course of their life. The story depicts a person’s options to ignore pain, create a reason for pain, or accept pain and live within it. Baldwin explains the theme of pervasive pain and parent’s attempt to shield children from it through the characters. Their reaction to pain constructs a motif of pain management.
For the sake of letting children stay innocent from the harsh treatments of the world for as long as possible, adults don’t speak of theses realities in the presence of children. Baldwin constructs a scenario in which adults try to shelter a child’s dark wisdom. “The darkness outside is what the old folks have been talking about. It’s what they have come from. It’s what they endure. The child knows that they won’t talk anymore because if he knows too much about what happened to them, he’ll know too much too soon, about what’s going to happen to him” (34). While justifiable to protect children from the cruelties of the world, to lead them on unaware of reality, the adults are committing a disservice to the children, who are oblivious to the challenges and trials ahead of them. Even though the adults do not bring the child’s attention to the challenges and trials are held in store, does not mean the cruelties can be ignored. Simply not talking about something does not make it disappear. As Baldwin crafts the scenario, he preludes to the inevitable: all things good eventually meet their end. In the case of the child, his early years in life can be havened from the malice of reality, but eventually that child will grow-up (probably earlier than hoped) and confront what he didn’t know existed. That in itself is a cruelty because the happiness he thought existed, was fake. The character of the mother executes the tell-tale signs of counterfeit happiness when she tells the murderous story of the narrator’s father’s brother. “‘Oh honey,’ she said, ‘there’s a lot that you don’t know. But you are going to find out’” (36).
If pain is inevitable then maybe the best course of action would be to have a reason to suffer. Baldwin’s character Sonny effectively portrays this mindset. In a conversation with his older brother Sonny asks, “‘why do people suffer? Maybe it’s better to do something to give it a reason, any reason’” (44). Sonny’s reason to suffer is from his heroin addiction. He is a musician with an acute sensitivity to the dark environment around him. He feels a deeper, harsher connection to the human’s fate to suffer. “‘I’ve been something I didn’t recognize, didn’t know I could be. Didn’t know anybody could be,’ [Sonny says] ‘Sometimes, you know, and it was actually when I was most out of the world that I felt that I was in it, that I was with it, really, and I could play, it just came out of me,...

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