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Sonny's Blues By James Baldwin Essay

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 father and his brother. The father’s brother had a thirst for music, and they both travelled the treacherous road of night clubs, drinking and partying before his brother was hit and killed by a car full of white boys. Plagued, the father carried this pain of the loss of his brother and bitterness towards the whites to his grave. “Till the day he died he weren’t sure but that every white man he saw was the man that killed his brother.”(346) Watching the same problems transcend onto the narrator’s baby brother, Sonny, the reader feels his despair when he tries to relate the same scenarios his father had, to his brother. “All that hatred down there”, he said “all that hatred and misery and love. It’s a wonder it doesn’t blow the avenue apart.”(355) He’s trying to relate to his brother that even though some try to cover their misery with doing what others deem as “right,” others just cover it with a different mask. “But nobody just takes it.” Sonny cried, “That’s what I’m telling you! Everybody tries not to. You’re just hung up on the way some people try—it’s not your way!”(355) The narrator had dealt with his own miseries of knowing his father’s plight, his Brother Sonny’s imprisonment and the loss of his own child. Sonny tried to give an understanding of what music was for him throughout their lives, all the while being dismissed in disgust. It wasn’t until the end that Sonny truly painted a musical explanation to his brother’s soul. Words expressed only through the agonizing notes of distress and sadness. Only then was the “art and suffering,” comingled in only a way that life’s experiences could bring.
“Sonny’s fingers filled the air with life, his life. But that life contained so many others…..He made it his: that long line, of which we knew only Mama and Daddy. And he was giving it back, so that, passing through death, it can now live forever. I saw my Mother’s face again, and felt, for the first time, how the stones of the road she had walked on must have bruised her feet. I saw the moonlit road where my father’s brother died. And it brought something else back to me, and carried me past it. I saw my little girl again and felt Isabel’s (his wife) tears again, and felt my own tears begin to rise. And I was yet aware that this was only a moment, that the world waited outside, as hungry as a tiger, and that trouble stretched above us, longer than the sky.”(359)
The narrator was writhing in the misery of the burden of brotherly love. The narrator’s mother, via tasking him with looking after Sonny, asked...

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