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Communication in "Sonny's Blues."

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Communication in "Sonny's Blues."

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  • April 7, 2004
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In the story "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin, we see many uses of symbolism, which are created through his use of dialogue. Dialogue is the most critical literary technique that Baldwin uses to achieve the intense connection to the characters that the reader feels in "Sonny's Blues".

"Sonny's Blues" is a story about the relationship of two brothers and how they deal with their very different lives. This story is also about a family member coping with another family member's addiction. The first metaphor we are exposed to in this story is found in the second paragraph:

"A great block of Ice settled in my belly and kept melting there all day long, while I taught my classes algebra. 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. Sometimes it hardened and seemed to expand until I felt my guts were going to come spilling out or that I was going to choke or scream."(68)

With this quotation the reader achieves a direct connection with the narrator. The symbolism of ice representing pain is an excellent metaphor because it allows the reader to feel the narrator's pain. If the reader actually had a brother who was caught doing Heroin in a raid, Baldwin could achieve this emotional response by saying, "I felt just like I did the day I found out my brother was doing heroin." Most of the general population has not had this experience. Therefore, when Baldwin uses the ice to describe the pain as a feeling that will not go away despite the fact that he must teach his students algebra, the reader feels exactly what Sonny's brother is feeling at the time.

The use of dialogue in "Sonny's Blues" is very effective in conveying emotion to the reader. One example other than the "ice metaphor" is when Sonny and his brother are riding in a cab and they head uptown in New York City, towards Harlem. The two brothers ride silently in the cab as they were reflecting upon Harlem where they had both...