Intro to Literature
28 February 2011
James Baldwin writes about two African-American brothers growing up in Harlem, a black ghetto in New York, during the 1950's. During this time black people were forced to live in a world of prejudice, discrimination, poverty and suppression. The life of a black person was very difficult; many opportunities afforded to whites were not afforded to blacks. Sonny and his brother lived in the projects and had many obstacles to overcome that white people didn't have to. Sonny chose music to outwardly express his suffering, his brother chose to bottle it up and keep it inside, but this is the common thread they both shared. Suffering is also shown in the story when Baldwin says "it came to me that what we both we... This is essay will argue that there is a thematic connection between suffering in the short story "Sonny's Blues" and the oppression of African Americans. Reading the story in the social context of the era that it was written in will offer an explanation as to why Sonny was suffering, and how his escape from despair ties into a larger political and social movement. He expresses his thoughts on this subject through his distinctive and eloquent prose which accommodates an abundant use of rhetorical devices and symbols.
The largest and most noticeable devices are his allusions to biblical imagery. In one scene, the unnamed narrator describes the housing projects as “rocks in the middle of a boiling sea.” Such an apocalyptic image invokes a sense of hell on earth and the steadfast decline of Harlem. The rocks, which represent the projects, are massive, yet surrounded by incessant misery. Later, directly preceding Sonny’s performance, the author juxtaposes both light and darkness. For instance, he says “…I had the feeling that they, nevertheless, were being most careful not to step into that circle of light too suddenly: that if they moved into the light too suddenly, without...
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