Light And Dark In The Book Sonny’s Blues By James Baldwin

986 words - 4 pages

In James Baldwin’s short story, “Sonny’s Blues” there is a constant contrast between light and dark. Baldwin uses this theme to highlight the struggles that the Narrator and his younger brother, Sonny, both face. Light represents all of the positive aspects of life. Meanwhile, the darkness represents the constant struggle that threatens the characters in the story. Light and dark has a presence in both characters. The narrator lives his life in the “light”. He is a teacher, middleclass man, a man who has a wife and family. For the narrator, the darkness is his constant reflections on his brother, and his sense of guilt or blame for being the reason why Sonny turned to a life of drugs. The darkness represents Sonny in a way. He is a recovering drug addict that just finished serving time in prison. When he was released from prison his brother was there to meet him. He finds his reemergence into the world through his love for music. For Sonny, music is his guiding light.
From the beginning, the narrator introduces the imagery of light and dark that will come to be the dominating theme of the story. In the first scene, the narrator is contemplating Sonny's fate in the dark subway. The "swinging lights of the subway car" allow him to read about Sonny's arrest, while the "darkness roared outside" (91). While seemingly just a very illustrative description, it soon becomes obvious that the use of the premises of light and dark in the story are the most significant in the story because the relationship between the two concepts mirror the lives of the two brothers. Just an elementary school algebra teacher, the narrator describes many of the students he teaches as being "filled with rage." He then says that these boys know only two "darkness’s" (92). This illustrates that "the darkness of the movies" had at one time completely blinded these boys to until they came of age and realized the true darkness that hanged over their lives being African American boys of that era (92). This is also the case with the narrator and Sonny. Apparently, though they both realized the true darkness, they chose to deal with it in distinctly different ways. The narrator finished high school, did a tour in the army, and became an educator, while Sonny dropped out of school, joined the Navy underage, and came back to New York and lived in a furnished room in Greenwich Village.
The idea of light and dark plays a significant role in the black society of the 1950s that the narrator and Sonny grew up in. The narrator once speaks of a time when many family members and friends would get together to chat and eat Sunday dinner at his parent's home after church service. He alludes to the darkness once again by saying that moments would occur when the stark silence of the adults brought on...

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