Regina McCrae Cynthia Pengilly ENG 1102 23 April 2013 “ Sonny‘s Blues” “Sonny’s Blues” is set in post-World War II New York, in the midst of an important cultural and political revolution that permanently changed the country. Artists from all over the world had made New York a new cultural capital, establishing Greenwich Village, where Sonny briefly lives. A diverse array of artists , including the painter Jackson Pollack, musician Charlie Parker, and writer Jack Kerouac, all converged in New York around this time.
These artists learned and borrowed from one another.
In “Sonny Blue’s,” Sonny wants to move past the traditional conventions of music, as did many postwar artists. At the same time that the art scene in New York was exploding, thousands of African American soldiers were returning home from the war and heading north toward communities like Harlem, where, instead of finding new job opportunities and equal rights, they found newly constructed housing projects and vast urban slums. Sonny and his brother both serve in the war, and each returns to find a radically different life in America.
In Sonny’s Blues, the narrator is self-reflecting his experiences with various family members such as his mother and his younger brother, Sonny. Sonny and the narrator are brothers with a 7 year difference between them. The narrator was disappointed with Sonny at first due to his interest in becoming a musician. He thought it was a phase he was was going through and maybe it would pass. The older brother patronized Sonny with his insincere interest in music at first until it angered Sonny and he told his brother “don’t do me no favors”.
One literary criticisms that come into play is the characters in the book” Sonny ‘s Blues” seems to be physically and emotionally imprisoned. All over the story, the narrator of the book and Sonny seems to be undergoing a great struggle to overcome constant barriers that have appeared in their lives. According to the story, Sonny is seen to be imprisoned physically in jail as well as being in the drug imprisonment. The addiction that he has to drugs seems to be a great prison in his life because he cannot do anything without the drugs that had succumbed and intertwined his life.
Some of the imprisonment that the narrator undergoes in the story is the confinement that he is under in Harlem and in the housing projects that according to him he detests. We see that he is unable to express himself therefore creating personal and emotional imprisonment. In addition, he is unable to live up to the expectation of himself especially as a brother. It is not until the death of his daughter that gave him motivation that is required to change and come out of the prison that he has been in.
Light and darkness are also in constant conflict throughout “Sonny’s Blues” and Baldwin uses them to highlight the warmth, hope ,gloom, and despair that marks his characters lives. Baldwin uses light to describe Sonny’s face when he was young and the warmth that came from sitting in a room full of adults after church. Light represents all of the positive and hopeful elements that are a part of life. It also has a religious undertone . Not only does light represent the best elements of life, but it also symbolizes a form of salvation and grace .
To live in light is a proper moral life. Symbolism also comes into play at the end of the story. The narrator describes a glass of wine sitting over Sonny’s piano as shaking “like the very cup of trembling “ to highlight what a difficult and complicated position Sonny is in. This image is borrowed from the bible, where the cup of trembling is used as a symbol to describe the suffering and fear that have plagued the people. The biblical passage promises a relief from that suffering.
Sonny’s drinking from the cup of trembling serves as a reminder of all the sufferings he has endured, while also offering the chance for redemption and peace . As a musician, Sonny takes all his suffering and that of those around him and transform it into something beautiful. The final point of the story is that the narrator, through his own suffering and the example of Sonny, is at last able to find himself in the brotherhood of man . It is the common experience of suffering that ties all of humankind together, and by denying his pain and suffering , he has denied himself a place among his people.
He had not only denied himself brotherhood but he had also denied himself the relief that comes with sharing a common bond. Finally he is able to feel pride in his brother’s accomplishments and be there for him in a way he has not been before. He is finally acting in good faith, and his opinion of his brother evolves from one of disapproval and disappointment in a boy’s pipe dreams to one of pride in a man’s accomplishments as a musician and human being. Works Cited: “Sonny’s Blues” www. Troy. edu/blackboard www. ehow/how www. cai. ucdavis. edu/slecture
Cite this Sonny’s Blues Phenomenon History
Sonny’s Blues Phenomenon History. (2016, Sep 17). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/sonnys-blues/