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Sonny’s Blues, By James Baldwin Essay

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 literary foundation for his writings. Each allusion enables one to begin to see his stories in a different way.
The relationship between the narrator and his brother Sonny closely resembles that of the relationship between Cain and Abel in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve. The story tells that in order to show their appreciation for God, they were to give a sacrifice. Cain offered a portion of his land, while Abel whole heartedly offered his fattest lamb. At the end of the story Cain killed his brother due to jealousy of how God saw their sacrifices. When God asked Cain where his brother was, Cain boldly answered, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I believe that the narrator and Cain are very similar, because of the role they play in their own family. Sadly they are closely related because they both turn their backs away from their younger brothers. There was a crucial part in the story that relates the theses two pair of brothers to each other. When the narrator discovers of Sonny’s arrest he states, “Look. I haven’t seen Sonny for over a year, I’m not sure I’m going to do anything. Anyway, what the hell can I do?” (Baldwin, 321) This statement is similar to the statement of Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I believe that the narrator feels that he should not have to take accountability for his brother’s careless actions because he is not his brother’s keeper. Symbolically, Sonny is dead to his brother, just as Abel is to Cain. Sonny and Abel do not receive the desired recognition from their brothers. It is unfortunate to compare the narrator to Cain, but it becomes very obvious that they both share the same attributes.
“The Parable of the Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-32), is an eminent parable, telling the story of a wayward son’s homecoming from a journey, and his father’s acceptance and unconditional love and mercy. The story tells about a younger son who requests for his inheritance from his father early. He departs for a distant land, where he squanders his inheritance all in debauchery. He then found work herding swine, and comes to the point where he begins to hunger for the food of swine. He then realizes that he has to return home. As he nears home, his father welcomes his son with open arms and a great feast of celebration. The older brother, who had stayed home to work, begrudges the mercy shown. Nevertheless their father says “But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”...

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