This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Music In Society According To James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues"

1260 words - 5 pages

In modern society, music uses many forms. Some use music for praising the Lord, and others use music as something that one can get down to. But mainly, people use music as an expression of who they are as a person; whether it be by what one plays or what one listens to, music is a major factor in determining who one is and their personality. In James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues," all of these examples are there. Music plays a major role in his story, which centers on the reunion of a common listener and his musician brother. The comparison between these two characters lead one to believe that there are some aspects of music that the musician understands more than his brother. According to Baldwin, music affects different people in different ways, and the narrator learns this throughout the story because the ways he sees music being expressed prepares him for his encounter with his brother.
The first example of music in the story comes from the simplest place. Baldwin begins his analysis of music in society by starting with the most basic form of it, a child who is simply whistling. "One boy was whistling a tune, at once very complicated and very simple, it seemed to be pouring out of him as though he were a bird, and it sounded very cool and moving through all that harsh, bright air, only just holding its own though all those other sounds" (22). The child presumably is just whistling to pass time and is not thinking about it that much. But Baldwin, instead of just dismissing it, which is what people would normally do, analyzes it, as one would do with a normal song. He finds that the boy's whistling can embody the same traits as the music we buy in stores can, describing it as "at once very complicated and very simple. The narrator learns from this experience that music can be a simple expression, but even in its simplest form, can still be complicated.
The next example of music in Baldwin's story occurs soon afterwards. In this scene, the narrator stops and looks into the bar for an extended period of time, drifting off while having a conversation with one of Sonny's friends. "We were in front of a bar and...the juke box was blasting away with something black and bouncy and I half watched the barmaid as she danced her way from the juke box to her place behind the bar. And I watched her face as she laughingly responded to something someone said to her, still keeping time to the music" (24). Once again, he analyzes a very simple expression of music, which is dancing to a tune from the jukebox, to a point that one normally would never do. The depth to which Baldwin goes to describe this scene once again serves as a learning experience for the narrator. By analyzing this basic expression of music, as he similarly does with the whistling boy in the schoolyard, Baldwin is giving us another example of music in society, which we rarely notice. This should give the reader an understanding to what the narrator is going through, which is trying to...

Find Another Essay On Music in Society according to James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues"

Suffering and Surviving in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues

1596 words - 6 pages Suffering and Surviving in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues In "Sonny's Blues" James Baldwin presents an intergenerational portrait of suffering and survival within the sphere of black community and family. The family dynamic in this story strongly impacts how characters respond to their own pain and that of their family members. Examining the central characters, Mama, the older brother, and Sonny, reveals that each assumes or

The Inevitability of Suffering in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues

874 words - 3 pages The Inevitability of Suffering in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues Everyone likes to feel safe. We try to protect ourselves and those we love, to make them feel safe as well. The idea conveyed about safety in James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues" is that there is no such thing. The narrator of this story had thought that his brother Sonny was safe. Or at least, that was what he had made himself believe. "I told myself that Sonny was wild, but

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

814 words - 3 pages 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

Mending the Relationship of Two Brothers in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues

1270 words - 5 pages Mending the Relationship of Two Brothers in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues According to Liukkonen, James Baldwin is well known for his "novels on sexual and personal identity, and sharp essays on civil-rights struggle in the United States." "Sonny's Blues" is no exception to this. The story takes place in Harlem, New York in the 1950's and tells of the relationship between two brothers. The older brother, who is the narrator and a

Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis and James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues

2271 words - 10 pages There are many factors that lead to the development of an individual’s identity. Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” illustrates an extreme change in Gregor Samsa’s external identity and the overall outward effect it has on the development of his family. While James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” illustrates a young man struggling to find his identity while being pushed around by what society and his family wants him to be. Both of these characters

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

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

Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin

494 words - 2 pages Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin "Sonny's Blues" is a story about two brothers, their past, and how their differences came between them. They were apart for several years while Sonny was in jail, but once he got out they had a chance to mend their pasts. "Sonny's Blues" is a well written story that teaches a lesson that has value in every day life. The tone is melancholy and reminiscent. The brother is remembering the past and reflection on

Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin

1100 words - 4 pages "Sonny's Blues" If you were not able to talk to anyone, nor did people want to listen to what you have to say, would that affect you? In the short story, "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin, Baldwin writes about two brothers, Sonny and the narrator, who lose communication between one another because Sonny goes to prison. The narrator, having to make a promise to their mother before her death, was to take care and watch over his young brother

Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin

1597 words - 6 pages how Sonny and the narrator were able to overcome these miseries and whether they concluded in the same manner in the life of Baldwin. Works Cited Baldwin, James. “Sonny's blues.” Baldwin, James. Going to meet the man. New York: Dial Press, 1965.

"Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin: Learning To Accept The Past

515 words - 2 pages rest of his life. James Baldwin's story "Sonny's Blues" is a story about two brothers who grew up in the ghetto of Harlem. As adults they both try to find themselves and escape their past in Harlem. Sonny's brother tries making a better life for himself. He uses his family and his success as a schoolteacher as a way of overcoming his childhood. On the other hand, Sonny uses his drug addiction and his love of music as means of escape from the past

Similar Essays

Learning To Listen In James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues

684 words - 3 pages 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

Symbolism In James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues

1244 words - 5 pages Symbolism in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues Missing Works Cited Several passages found throughout "Sonny's Blues" indicate that as a whole, the neighborhood of Harlem is in the turmoil of a battle between good and evil. The narrator describes Sonny's close encounters with the evil manifested in drugs and crime, as well as his assertive attempts at distancing himself from the darker side. The streets and communities of Harlem are described as

James Baldwin's Story Sonny's Blues Essay

1264 words - 5 pages James Baldwin's Story Sonny's Blues James Baldwin?s story ?Sonny?s Blues? is a deep and reflexive composition. Baldwin uses the life of two brothers to establish parallelism of personal struggle with society, and at the same time implies a psychological process of one brother leaving his socially ingrained prejudices to understand and accept the other's flaws. The story is narrated by Sonny?s older brother whom remained unnamed the

Sonny's Heroic Journey In James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues

2958 words - 12 pages them. According to his brother, who narrates "Sonny's Blues," Sonny was a bright-eyed young man full of gentleness and privacy. "When he was about as old as the boys in my classes his face had been bright and open, there was a lot of copper in it; and he'd had wonderfully direct brown eyes, a great gentleness and privacy. I wondered what he looked like now" (Baldwin 272). Something happened to Sonny, as it did to most of the young people