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 Harlem, New York. Baldwin had no one to share his love for literature with. Baldwin’s father was opposed of him following the literature career path James Baldwin however, did receive support from the mayor and his English teacher. Baldwin abandoned his parents home at the age of 17, to settle into Green Village, New York. Green village was a city famous for its artistic environment and free thinkers, here is where his career began. James Baldwin’s stories often took place during the civil war, as did one of his most famous stories, Sonny’s Blues.
Towards the beginning of the story of SONNYS BLUES the narrator has a feeling of ice in his stomach. The narrator felt this feeling as he read the news paper that informed him that his brother was in jail for possession of drugs. The feeling of ice symbolizes fear and discomfort for the narrator. “A great block of ice got settled in my belly and kept melting there slowly all day long. . .. It was a special kind of ice. It kept melting, sending trickles of ice water all up and down my veins, but it never got less.” ("Ice." Shmoop. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2013.)The narrator felt in a sense responsible and guilty of the life his little brother is now living and if he were there to guide him that maybe then things could be different.
Jazz music symbolizes two different things for the two main characters. The narrator believes that being a jazz musician wouldn’t be good for sonny because of the many musicians known to not be able to perform without drugs. The narrator believed that Sonny as a musician would put him right back on the same boat he once traveled in. The narrator had no faith that maybe this time Sonny would be able to fight temptations of his drug addiction. Jazz music for Sonny meant the exact opposite however, music was more like the light at the end of a tunnel. Jazz music was one of the few positive things in Sonny’s life. Music represented passion and an escape from the world for Sonny. It was where he could do no one harm its where he felt the most free to do as he pleases without being judged. The two brothers were cut from different fabric, and often find it hard to understand one another. Music seemed to be the bridge that managed to fill the gap of understanding between the two, it brought them closer than they have ever been. When the narrator goes to watch his brother perform he learns things he’d never known about his brother before, he then began to appreciate the wonder and terror of becoming a musician.
In “Sonny’s Blues” Baldwin...