Children are inherently rebellious – it is a natural part of their development to rebel against their parents or guardians. This rebellion process often involves questioning one’s beliefs, navigating outside influences, seeking acceptance, and striving for understanding. Upon analyzing characters from stories focused on rebellion, I have come to realize that rebellion is not simply an act of defiance aimed at disappointing others; rather, it is often a painful journey towards mutual understanding. In James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blue,” the protagonist Sonny grapples with finding his true identity and purpose, all while contending with his brother’s logical approach to raising him.
Sonny and Jing Mei both face challenges in their lives that lead them to rebel against those around them. Sonny, in “Sonny’s Blues,” finds himself caught between his dreams and the reality of his life, causing him to rebel against his brother. Similarly, Jing Mei in “Two Kinds” is a distressed child who tries to be understood by her mother but feels imprisoned by her mother’s high expectations. This leads to Jing Mei’s rebellious behavior as she tries to break free from her mother’s predetermined path for her. Rebellion, in both of these stories, is a battle of opposing beliefs that individuals, especially children, must face in order to find their true selves.
Discovering our true identity requires a significant effort. Acts of rebellion allow us to express our genuine beliefs, helping others understand who we truly are. This exploration is crucial and necessary in life, particularly during childhood when we search for answers about ourselves and our aspirations. In James Baldwin’s story, the narrator confronts Sonny about his life goals; Sonny reveals his aspiration to become a jazz musician. He stresses that being a musician not only provides a livelihood but also fulfills him completely (Baldwin 17).
Sonny is confused by his brother’s inability to appreciate the importance of music in his life. His brother, who teaches math, has a pragmatic mindset and sees Sonny’s desire to pursue a career in music as illogical. On the other hand, Sonny, being more idealistic, fails to understand the practicality behind his brother’s viewpoint. Sonny firmly believes that individuals should follow their passions in life because it gives them purpose. (Baldwin17)
At this moment, Sonny felt discouraged by his brother’s apparent disregard for his true passions in life. Despite his brother’s disagreement, Sonny truly believes that being a musician is what he genuinely loves. He reluctantly accepts his brother’s decision to let him stay at Isabel’s house, as he is somewhat pleased by the opportunity to play the piano there. This marks the beginning of his rebellion, as his brother’s intention was to give him some control over his own life until he graduated. However, Sonny is stubborn and it is clear that playing music is the only thing he truly desires.
Despite obstacles, he stayed dedicated to his aspiration of becoming a musician, even if it meant giving up on schooling and disappointing his brother while passing on other potential chances. Our beliefs shape who we are, and I strongly believe that chasing our interests is the first step in discovering ourselves. Personally, I have ambitions of being a computer scientist and actively engaging in the world of computers, particularly within the gaming sector. Nevertheless, my parents have concerns about this career choice, similar to the doubts expressed by Sonny’s brother regarding his optimistic vision.
Rebellion in children is a common occurrence with various underlying reasons. In the case of Jing Mei, her defiance stems from her mother’s insistence on her becoming a prodigy. Despite her mother’s relentless efforts, Jing Mei remains disinterested and refuses to be molded into something she is not. As Jing Mei exclaims, “I won’t let her change me…I won’t be what I’m not” (Tan 123), expressing her frustration with her mother’s obsession.
I believe it is unfair for people to be forced to do things they do not want to do. Unfortunately, having parents like Jing Mei’s can be extremely challenging. Parents who have high expectations for their children put immense pressure on them, often resulting in tragic outcomes. Jing Mei reflects on her own experiences, stating, “Perhaps I never truly gave myself a fair chance. I did grasp the basics quite quickly and could have become a talented pianist at a young age. However, I was determined not to try, not to be anyone other than myself. As a result, I only played the loudest preludes and the most discordant hymns” (Tan 125).
Jing Mei is resistant to following her mother’s desires for her future. She desires to be true to herself and rebels against the idea of being a prodigy. While she initially began playing and practicing the piano, she only focused on perfecting the beginning of the song, neglecting the rest. I can relate to having parents with high expectations, which can be troublesome and disappointing when their children do not meet those expectations.
Jing Mei’s sole conclusion was to defy her mother’s requests without exerting any effort. She was convinced that her mother would give up after she failed at everything. However, after her mother’s passing, Jing Mei reflects on the piano she used to practice on and notices the two different sections of the song. She disregards the fact that she had great potential if she had tried harder, a potential that her mother clearly saw. In the end, Jing Mei feels remorseful as she reminisces about her mother’s efforts and ignores everything her mother did for her. She comes to realize that her actions were not right.
Like Sonny, she was another child in need of understanding. Similarly, I also felt remorseful for not meeting my parents’ expectations. Despite graduating from high school with minimal effort, I acknowledged that I had the potential to excel academically. There were occasions when my parents consistently reminded me about taking the SATs and promised to cover the expenses if I achieved a satisfactory score. However, I only took it once and performed poorly due to my complete lack of studying. During that time, grasping my own thoughts became challenging; maybe I wrestled with identifying what truly mattered in my life.
Despite their disappointment, my parents still encouraged me to retake the test. Regrettably, I decided not to and it has been the greatest mistake of my life so far. Both Sonny and Jing Mei rebelled in order to express their emotions and remain true to their beliefs, refusing any efforts to change them. To assess the effectiveness of rebellion, one must consider if its desired outcome was achieved. It was only when Sonny’s brother acknowledged his mistakes and felt the intense emotions depicted in Sonny’s performance on stage that he finally comprehended…
Sonny’s brother described him as a humorous and formal person, with intense emotions that could have made him cry. However, Sonny did not hide or display his emotions; instead, he confronted them bravely. He smiled, placed both hands on his heart, and bowed deeply. These actions surprised his brother and made him realize his mistake in doubting Sonny. He finally understood that Sonny had been committed to becoming a skilled musician and never gave up. Not only was Sonny troubled by his relationship with his brother but also by the people around him.
Despite facing adversity, he persevered towards his aspirations and exerted every ounce of effort he could. According to the narrator’s account, “And, as Creole listened, Sonny moved with an inner anguish that I had never before considered. I had never realized how difficult the relationship between a musician and their instrument must be. They must infuse it with their own breath of life; they must command it to do as they please. And yet, a piano is merely a piano… But you can only discover its limitations by attempting to surpass them; by striving to make it do everything” (Baldwin 29). The narrator also observed a newfound expression on Sonny’s face while passionately playing the piano on stage (Baldwin 29). Sonny felt an overwhelming compulsion to perform and experienced an invincible sense of liberation up there. Through his music and emotional expression, Sonny effectively conveyed his message to his brother. Inspired by Sonny’s example, I am resolute in pursuing my dreams and giving my utmost effort towards achieving what I have set out for myself. Independently deciding to enroll in college and pursue a degree in Computer Science.
Despite facing initial disapproval from my parents, I am determined to prove them wrong and pursue what truly fulfills me. Rebellion allows us to explore our genuine selves and question the notion of conforming to others’ opinions on what is best for us. It is always wise to believe in ourselves, irrespective of external influences. Although Jing Mei expresses regret over the consequences of her rebellion, suggesting an unfavorable outcome, she ultimately achieves success through her defiance. This underscores the importance of having a clear purpose when engaging in rebellion. Similarly, like Jing Mei, I am uncertain about my aspirations and what I am striving to become.
Realizing the significance of having a purpose, I understood that it wasn’t too late for me. Sonny, on the other hand, had one life goal – to become a jazz musician. He faced many challenges and made both positive and negative choices, mostly unfavorable ones. However, these experiences shaped him into the person he is now. Therefore, understanding our purpose before rebelling is crucial. Our purpose determines the outcome of our rebellion and ultimately, we witness the consequences of defying it. Whether it’s Sonny’s triumph or Jing Mei’s regrets, all originate from their motivations behind their rebellions.