Conflicts Within and Amongst Protagonists
"A Clean Well-Lighted Place" by Ernest Hemingway and "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin are interestingly tied together with their protagonists. Both are faced with various obstacles in their lives which are the main focus of each story, however, neither of the stories are written in the perspective of the central character. Nor are the struggles they face ever mentioned outright; instead, they become more defined as each story progresses. The protagonist in "A Clean Well-Lighted Place", an elderly man, seems to have a comfortable life, one that the character of a young waiter finds enviable in some ways, and yet, in the week prior to the setting of the story, he tried to commit suicide. In "Sonny's Blues", the protagonist, Sonny, in an attempt to escape his childhood in Harlem, finds the creative outlet of being a jazz pianist, and unfortunately gets sucked into drugs in the process. Although the elderly man in "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" and Sonny in "Sonny's Blues" face very different challenges in their lives, the manner in which they combat their struggles with themselves, with family members, and with society is similar in principle.
Both Sonny and the old man are primarily in conflict with themselves. Their respective outlooks on life have caused them to be in the situations they are in. Sonny is torn between the love he feels for his family and his passion for playing jazz piano. Initially, he attempts to appease both loves, which leads to neither of them being fulfilled. Only when he feels abandoned by his family does he choose to ignore one of his loves entirely and pursue his dream of being a jazz pianist. However, he is never fully able to detach himself completely from his family and there always an uncertainty in his mind of what would have happened if he had acted differently. He retracts into himself rather than confront the issue head on as shown in the following passage "Sonny just moves back,...
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