As the sun rises, birds begin to sing the joy of light and as the day ends, the birds fly back into the darkness of night. The darkness of our lives is often transformed by the delusion of light. In James Baldwin's essay, "Sonny's Blues,"� the title itself sets up an irony that is explored throughout. The name "Sonny," when read, sounds like "Sunny," meaning brightness, light and hope. The word "Blues" presents the reader images of night, darkness and sadness. The darkness represents the reality of life on the streets of Harlem, a community living in an environment where there is no escape from the reality of drugs and crime. The dreadful nature of the streets lures adolescents to use drugs as a means of escaping the darkness of their lives. The main character, Sonny, a struggling Jazz musician, finds himself addicted to heroin as a way of unleashing creativity and artistic ability within him. Using music as a means of creating structure in his life, Sonny attempts to step into the light, a life without drugs. Coping with the light and darkness of siblings can be one of life's most exhausting challenges as they grow-up and struggle to form their own identities.
The different images of light and darkness serve as the abstract framework for Baldwin's essay. This imagery is first viewed when the narrator, Sonny's older brother, thinks about Sonny's fate in the dark subway. "I stared at it in the swinging light of the subway car, and in the faces and bodies of the people, and in my own face, trapped in the darkness which roared outside"�(270). The "swinging lights of the subway car"� allows him to read about Sonny's arrest, while the "darkness roared outside."� This allows the narrator to realize that he has to find a way to absorb and live with this new understanding of Sonny as an addict and as a blues musician. The darkness is the representation of the community of Harlem, where like the passengers on the subway, the community is trapped in their surroundings...
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