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

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

2958 words - 12 pages


The theme of "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin focuses on whether a person should be conventional in making decisions for their life, or if they should follow their heart and do what is right for them. A person begins with strengths, many of which they lose along the way. At some point along their heroic journey a person may regain their strengths and develop new ones. Each phase of this journey will have an effect on them and others around 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 growing up in Harlem. His physical journey growing up in the streets caused a great deal of inner turmoil about whom he was and what kind of life he was to have. One thing for sure, by the time his mother died, Sonny was ready to get out of Harlem. " 'I ain't learning nothing in school,' he said. 'Even when I go.' He turned away from me and opened the window and threw his cigarette out into the narrow alley. I watched his back. 'At least, I ain't learning nothing you'd want me to learn.' He slammed the window so hard I thought the glass would fly out, and turned back to me. 'And I'm sick of the stink of these garbage cans!' " (Baldwin 285).

The garbage cans Sonny referred to seem to symbolize the life he physically lived, his inner or spiritual life and how he dealt with it.

I was sure that the first time Sonny had ever had horse, he couldn't have been much older than these boys were now. These boys, now, were living as we'd been living then, they were growing up with a rush and their heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities. They were filled with rage. All they really knew were two darknesses, the darkness of their lives, which was now closing in on them, and the darkness of the movies, which had blinded them to the other darkness, and in which they now, vindictively, dreamed, at once more together than they were at any other time, and more alone. (Baldwin 273)

Living in the ghetto has to be as much a physical as a spiritual trauma because a person cannot separate the two.

After their mother dies, Sonny seems to be trying to decide what to do with himself; where he fits emotionally when he tells his brother he wants to play jazz like Bird -- Charlie Parker. His brother informs him that he can't make a living at it. Then Sonny states "But what I don't seem to be able to make you understand is that it's the only thing I want to do." His brother gently replies, "Well, Sonny, you know people can't always do exactly what they want to do.'' "No, I don't know that," said Sonny, surprising him. "I think people ought to do what...

Find Another Essay On Sonny's Heroic Journey in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues

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

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

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

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

2271 words - 10 pages opposites in a sense that one follows his family and the other does not. But, both characters were forced into difficult situations and both have experienced some sort of sacrifice. Works Cited Mendoza, Ramon G. The Human Vermin: Kafka's Metaphor for Extreme Alienation. N.p.: Salem Press, n.d. Literary Reference Database. Web. 23 Mar. 2014. Murray, Donald C. James Baldwin's 'Sonny's Blues': Complicated and Simple. N.p.: Newberry College, n.d. Literary Reference Database. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.

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

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

849 words - 3 pages James Baldwin's short story, "Sonny's Blues", tells the tale of two brothers, as they come to an understanding of each other. The use of imagery and figurative language can help the reader grasp a deeper meaning of what the narrator is focusing on. In "Sonny's Blues", the predominant imageries throughout the narrative are the reoccurring contrasting images of light and darkness, symbolizing hope and despair. Children filled with hope, feel

Similar Essays

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

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

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