English Composition 2
11 December 2013
Within The Blues
James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” is a story of how a distant and conflicting relationship between two brothers is saved by the powerful message within music. In “Sonny’s Blues” the music portrays a very powerful message. The story begins with Sonny being arrested for heroin use. Sonny’s older brother is a school teacher and did not want to believe that the news was true, “I didn’t want to believe that I’d ever see my brother going down, coming to nothing, all that light in his face gone out, in the condition I’d already seen so many others” (Baldwin 293). Sonny used his music and drugs to distance himself from all the negativity in his life. Sonny dreams of becoming a musician but he finds himself trapped in a drug infested environment, which just about destroys him. Sonny used the drugs to temporarily tame and overcome his pain and problems. Sonny grew up in Harlem where he was exposed to but negativity. Drugs, alcohol, poverty, and crime were all negative influences on Sonny as a child. After the death of his parents, Sonny’s older brother was there to look after him. His brother tried to be an example in life to Sonny, but he could not find a way to understand Sonny’s beliefs. Soon after the death of their parents, Sonny’s brother joined the army. Sonny was forced to stay with people whom were strangers to him. Sonny used his love for music in order to get away from the discontent. Sonny found a way to focus on the negative energy in his life and use it to create his music. Through his music, Sonny exposed his deepest and most personal feelings. The music was so powerful and stirring because Sonny incorporated his life experiences into what he played. The music allows Sonny and his brother to deal with their pain and suffering. Sonny expressed his suffering through his music. Sonny’s brother is awakened by the music and can finally see Sonny’s situation. The image that the music portrays plays a role in the balance between the two brothers and expresses the contradiction of little understanding and the love they have for each other. James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” conveys a powerful message of salvation by embracing the hardships and contradictions in life.
“Sonny’s Blues” illustrates the way music was used to escape from the negativity in life. The story begins when Sonny is arrested for heroin use. Sonny used the drugs as a source of power to distance himself from the unhappiness in his life. Author Sandy Norton states, “Heroin keeps things from fragmenting in the face of unbearable pain, as does art.” Sonny used heroin to overcome his problems and pain. The drug infested environment where Sonny lived came close to destroying him. His use of heroin allowed him to temporarily tame his suffering. Sonny’s interest in drugs became larger as time went on. Sonny felt as if the drugs improved his ability to perform, which indicated his addiction. Sonny’s older brother was a school teacher and did not want to believe that the arrest was true. Sonny’s brother wrote, “I didn’t want to believe that I’d ever see my brother going down, coming to nothing, all that light in his face gone out, in the condition I’d already seen so many others. Yes it had happened and here I was, talking about algebra to a lot of boys who might, every one of them for all I knew, be popping off needles every time they went to the head. Maybe it did more for them than algebra could” (Baldwin 293). Sonny’s brother did not understand him or his love for music. Sonny loved Jazz because it made him feel as if he had something to offer to others. Sonny used his music as a getaway and in doing so, he shared his suffering and pain within the music. The feeling Sonny experienced when playing Jazz allowed him to move forward in life. The music gave him the power to overcome his problems and pain. Sonny’s music provided a way for him to turn these times of...
Cited: Reid, Robert. “The Powers of Darkness in Sonny’s Blues.’.” CLA Journal 43.4 (June 2000):
Essays on Values in Literature 59.2 (2007): 109+. Literature Resource Center. Web.
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