The Impact of Drugs in “Sonny’s Blues”
In “Sonny’s Blues,” Baldwin explores the impact of drugs on the users and their families. The abuse of heroin results in the destruction of artistic talent, lives, and relationships with the family members. Sonny uses drugs as a means of escaping from an environment that is depressive, stressful and full of suffering. Baldwin restrains from judging Sonny because of his addiction problems because he wants to bring out the destructive effects of drug abuse and the role that the brain plays in the abuse of drugs. Whereas millions of people could be facing the problem of drug addiction, sending them to prison is not a viable remedy (Eagleman 203). The issue of drug addiction lies within the brain; therefore, it is imperative to develop strategies that will focus on the operations of the brain to improve the capacity of drug addicts to exercise impulse control.
Drug addiction is difficult to shake off because once one is hooked to drugs, he or she wants to use them continuously. Sonny describes what it feels to be high on heroin when he says that “When she was singing before,” said Sonny, abruptly, “her voice reminded me for a minute of what heroin feels like sometimes – when it’s in your veins. It makes you feel sort of warm and cool at the same time” (Baldwin 17).Here, sonny means that it takes courage to resist the temptation of trying heroin once you have tasted it because it makes one feel high. The comparison between heroin and the shooting music means that once a person has taken the heroine, he or she experiences instant gratification and feels to be in another world. Therefore, the only thing that one thinks of when using the heroine is the feeling he or she gets at that moment and not the long-term consequences of the drug on the body. Sonny plunged into the now-versus- the-future battle that is why he did not think about the long-term consequences of drug abuse. He wanted to get excitement from the drugs at that moment. Eagleman writes that “to the brain, the future can only ever be a pale shadow of the now. The power of now explains why people make decisions that feel good at the moment but have lousy consequences in the future: people who take a drink or a drug hit even though they know they shouldn’t (191). At the moment when Sonny was abusing the heroine, he did not care whether it was going to destroy his life and the relationship with his brother. All that he wanted at that moment was to feel high. Therefore, the decision to use drugs is a perfect manifestation of now-versus-the-future battle in the brain.
Notably, impulse control is a perfect strategy for dealing with drug addiction because the brain controls the aspect of drug addiction. To elaborate, Sonny exemplifies impulse control when he says that “sometimes I think I’m going to flip and never get outside, and sometimes I think I’ll come straight back. I tell you one thing, though, I’d rather blow my brains out than go through this again” (Baldwin 16). Sonny compares the effects of heroin to a shooting music to demonstrate that drug addiction is powerful and impairs the ability of one to think clearly. Overcoming drug addiction is not easy, but Sonny restrains himself from going back to them because of his experiences with them. Sonny asserts that he is ready to die instead of going back to prison because of drug abuse. His realization of the dangerous implications of drug abuse makes him exercise impulse control and thus does not fall into the temptation of using drugs again. Eagleman explains that “because the problem with drug addiction lies in the brain, it’s plausible that the solutions lie there too. One approach is to tip the balance of impulse control” (202).Therefore, the people that are interested in quitting drugs for good should learn to control their impulses so that they cannot be tempted to go back to the drugs once they have stopped. Impulse control can be useful when one considers the long-term implications of the drug abuse any time he or she is tempted to go back to the drugs.
Additionally, social interactions are essential for all people because they give them a sense of belonging. To elaborate, in “Sonny’s Blues’, the narrator underscores the significance of social relationships when he says that “and he treated these other people as though they were his family and I weren’t. So I got mad, and then he got mad, and then I told him that he might just as well be dead as live the way he was living” (Baldwin 13). Sonny’s brother does not understand him that is why he opts to find other people that understand him and his preferences for jazz music. He feels that his brother is not a part of his family because he does not appreciate him for whom he is, and he does not understand that jazz music is significant in his life. Sonny’s brother is devastated because he feels that Sonny does not consider him to be his brother. The musical family is critical is Sonny’s life because it enables him to do what he likes most. Therefore, family does not mean that people have the same blood.
A family is, ideally, composed of the people that love you and give you a sense of belonging. The socialization is controlled by the brain because Eagleman explains that “all of this social glue is generated by specific circuitry in the brain: sprawling networks that monitor other people, communicate with them, feel their pain, judge their intentions, and read their emotions” (208). Socialization influences the emotions are feelings of people. Human beings are social creatures that is why the development of sound social relationships leads to good feelings and happiness. On the other hand, the breaking up of social relationships affects the concerned parties in a negative manner because it makes them feel inadequate.
Decision making is key to shaping the identity of a person and the manner in which that person perceives the environment around him. Decision making entails weighing various options in life. People should strive to make the right decisions at the present moment because those decisions will be vital in shaping their futures. Having a good understanding of the functioning of the brain increases the chances of making the best choices in life. The policy should spearhead the introduction of rehabilitation programs for the drug addicts because sending them to prison does not increase their capacity to exercise impulse control. Focusing on the functioning of the brain in the rehabilitation programs will be helpful in ending the war on drugs because the programs will enable the drug addicts to restrain themselves from using drugs voluntarily.
Baldwin, James. Sonny’s Blues. Ernst Klett Sprachen, 2009. Eagleman, David. The Brain: The Story of You. Vintage, 2015.
An Analysis of Suffering in Indian Camp by Ernest Hemingway and Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin
In many instances works of literature portray real life situations whether it be physical, emotional or mental issues. Humans all experience some form of suffering in their lives. Works of literature use the theme of suffering to portray how people suffer in their own way and how they react to their suffering. Authors like James Baldwin and Ernest Hemingway use the theme of suffering to add realistic situations and drama to their short stories to connect to the readers.
In James Baldwin’s short story “Sonny’s Blues,” the story is about a young jazz musician named Sonny who battles his addiction to heroin. His story and his pain are explained to us from his brother’s point of view, who is the narrator. In the beginning, we find out that Sonny was arrested for using and selling drugs and then later on when he is released from prison, he moves in with the narrator and his family in Harlem, New York. Through the narrator’s point of view, we can understand the different forms of suffering throughout this story.
Many of the characters in the story suffer in their own way. Of course, the central issue in this piece is drug addiction, but also the issues of grief, poverty and limited opportunities in life are evident. Some of the characters try to fight to escape their suffering while others accept their pain.
Sonny suffers in different ways but the most obvious one is his drug addiction. According to the narrator, Sonny started using heroine when he was just in high school. Currently, the narrator is a high school teacher. He says, “I was sure that the first time Sonny had ever had [heroine], he couldn’t have been older than these boys were now” (265). Growing up in Harlem played a role in the start of Sonny’s use of heroin – poverty is everywhere and there is an abundance of drugs. Sonny tried escaping the suffering he experienced from poverty by leaving Harlem to pursue a music career but he never escaped the hold drugs had on him.
His inability to escape poverty in his teenage years is what led him to drugs – he felt in control when he was using them. He couldn’t control his situation of living in a place like Harlem so he used heroin to cope. “…what heroin feels like sometimes…warm and cool…it makes you feel–in control. Sometimes you’ve got to have that feeling” (286). He goes on to tell his brother that heroin allowed him to stand the misery he suffered living in Harlem. He further explains how he felt like he had control of his life when he was under the influence: “No, there’s no way not to suffer. But you try all kinds of ways to keep from drowning in it, to keep on top of it, and to make it seem – well, like you….” (287). He believed that the suffering he endured from heroine was only because he chose to suffer, unlike the suffering he endured living in Harlem which was not in his control.
Sonny also suffered from being in jail and knowing that he hurt his family. After he received a letter from his brother while he was in jail, Sonny wrote back saying, “You don’t know how much I needed to hear from you. I wanted to write you many a time but I dug how much I must have hurt you and so I didn’t write” (269). Jail was causing him emotional and mental suffering but he didn’t reach out to his brother because he was suffering over the guilt of upsetting him with his drug addiction. The pain of knowing he let his brother down influenced his decision to not reach out even if he needed family support when he was at his lowest.
Besides Sonny, the narrator is also suffering but in a different way; he is suffering from grief. After finding out that Sonny got arrested for using and selling drugs, the narrator was in shock. “A great block of ice got settled in my belly and kept melting there slowly all day long, while I taught my classes algebra. It was a special kind of ice…Sometimes it hardened and seemed to expand until I felt my guts were going to come spilling out or that I was going to choke or scream” (264). The narrator is suffering silently, unable to express his emotions. He doesn’t fall apart, as if he knew this would happen sooner or later because of his brother’s situation. The narrator is angry – angry at what Harlem did to his brother, angry at what his brother keeps doing to himself and angry at anyone who knew Sonny before he left Harlem. He runs into someone who was an old friend of Sonny. That old friend is also an addict. For a brief moment the man looked like Sonny to the narrator until he realized it wasn’t him but that he also reminded him of Sonny. The narrator has a strong feeling of hate towards Sonny’s old friend because of how his situation is similar to Sonny’s. The narrator talks with him about Sonny and what will happen to him after prison. When he is about to leave the man, the man asks for some money and the narrator knows what he’ll be using it for so he feels sympathetic and compassionate. “All at once something inside gave and threatened to come pouring out of me. I didn’t hate him any more. I felt that in another moment I’d start crying like a child” (268). He doesn’t hate the man anymore but almost physically expresses his grief over him and Sonny and what their lives have become. Seeing the man gives him memories of his brother before he left Harlem.
Another instance of suffering in the story which isn’t really talked about is the suffering the boys growing up in Harlem have to endure. Their opportunities to try to escape the harsh life of Harlem are limited. The narrator compares their situation to his and Sonny’s situation growing up in Harlem. “These boys, now, were living as we’d been living then, they were growing up with a rush and their heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities” (265). The boys know they don’t have much of a chance to make a change to their lives, to overcome the obstacles blocking them from achieving success and to change the circumstances they are in.
Suffering is expressed in different ways in this story. Some are actually dealing with their form of suffering directly while others aren’t. Either way, suffering is present in all of their lives, and will affect them whether they acknowledge it or not.
In Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Indian Camp,” a young boy named Nick goes to an American Indian camp on the other side of the lake with his father, who is a doctor, and his Uncle George. His father was called to help deliver a baby of an American Indian woman who has been in labor for the past two days. She is in pain and Nick watches as the situation unfolds in front of his eyes.
The theme of suffering is evident in this story and the suffering by two of the characters is caused by the unborn baby itself. There are both physical and mental suffering and each character deals with the pain in their own way.
The Indian woman is suffering from the physical pain of being in painful labor for two days. She has been screaming for days and the doctor was unable to stop her screaming because he doesn’t have any anesthetic. The Indian woman goes through more physical pain when the doctor started operating on her without the right surgical supplies. The doctor proudly states how he did the operation: “…a Caesarian with a jackknife and sewing it up with nine-foot, tapered gut leaders” (481). She is unable to control her suffering but she does try to cope with it when Uncle George is next to her. She bit on his arm when she was being held down by him and three other Indian men while the doctor operated on her.
The Indian woman’s husband is suffering from the mental pain of witnessing his wife going through labor. The husband is suffering from shame – the fact that his wife was impregnated by another man, let alone a white man. He is also suffering from the physical pain from when he had cut his foot badly with an axe. Listening to his wife scream in pain was also causing his suffering since he couldn’t escape her cries and he knows the only reason why she is in this situation is because of Uncle George. The husband is in mental pain when Nick asks his dad to make her stop screaming the doctor replies with “…her screams are not important. I don’t hear them because they are not important” (480). As soon as he said that, the husband “rolled over against the wall” (480). He is also suffering from the mental oppression from the white men and from the fact that the doctor doesn’t deem his wife’s physical pain as important. In society, men aren’t supposed to expose their weaknesses and show that they are suffering. So, the husband silently takes the mental pain he is enduring which ultimately leads to his suicide.
At the end of the story, Nicks asks his father about the Indian woman’s husband. He asks, “Why did he kill himself, Daddy?” to which the father replied, “I don’t know, Nick. He couldn’t stand things, I guess” (481). Nick’s father knows that the Indian man couldn’t bare to stand his mental pain much longer so he committed suicide as a way to deal with his suffering.
Both characters deal with their suffering in different ways. Gender has a role in how both the Indian man and Indian woman choose to deal with their pain. Suffering can be linked to weakness and that is why the Indian man did not express himself in any way. Instead, he stayed in his spot on the bed, lying down until he couldn’t take it anymore. The Indian woman however did express herself and because she is a woman, her signs of weakness were deemed as normal.
Suffering is a state of physical, emotional or mental pain that is unavoidable. How someone chooses to deal with their suffering is what determines whether or not a person is able to overcome their problems. Both James Baldwin and Ernest Hemingway brilliantly use the theme of suffering to portray how it affects different people in different situations.
The Effects of Light in Sonny’s Blues, a Short Story by James Baldwin
Light transforms, destroys, and elevates experiences and thoughts throughout ‘Sonny’s Blues’, by James Baldwin. Sonny and his brother, the narrator, grew up in the ‘dark’ atmosphere of Harlem and its housing projects and deteriorating, drug-ridden streets. The process of growing up, of losing their parents, and of living amidst both light and darkness had shaped both the narrator and Sonny. Baldwin uses light, and its counter, darkness, to present the challenges and hopes of the adult and boyhood days of the protagonists. If there is one line that summarizes the point that Baldwin conveys through this imagery, it is, “All that hatred and misery and love. It’s a wonder it doesn't blow the avenue apart” (pg 639). Through Sonny and his brother, we can see that light and dark can be put together, like hatred and love. Light and dark reflect the basic human experience; they are primeval aspects of the world that have always contrasted, but in this story, Baldwin brings them together.
The narrator’s childhood in Harlem was an experience that influenced him to be a teacher, and gave Sonny to have the desire to get as far away from his hometown as possible; this can be seen through the use of light and darkness. In the first passage, everything surrounding the boys while growing up is darkness. Their lives only lead into the darkness. The movies are a literal darkness that helps them escape their lives for a few hours, but in the end only make the literal darkness of life in Harlem even deeper. This same views on life in Harlem were echoed in the Narrator’s childhood, “And when light fills the room, the child is filled with darkness…moved a little closer to the darkness outside…what the old folks have been talking about” (pg 623). Through the passage, and this quote, we see that the general view is that light -like the movies mentioned in the first passage- only deludes a child, drawing him away from the harsh reality that will be his life, which “old folks” have experienced already. In response to this, the narrator tries to remove himself mentally from his environment by becoming a math teacher, by getting married, and even by cutting off his brother for a few years. He believes that if he ignores his inside, he can escape the darkness; but instead, he brings more darkness in. Sonny scares the narrator because he fluctuates between “bright and open” (pg 613) and “all the light in his face..gone out” (pg 614). Sonny is connected to his lights and darknesses through drugs, and then through music; these are both parts of Sonny’s life that the narrator cannot understand or accept for the majority of the story.
The narrator’s view of light and dark culminates in the second passage, and after that point. It is an epiphany for the narrator, and for Sonny. The narrator fears for Sonny, for his “perishing inflame”, for his inner fire to take over and burn him out, like what almost happened with his heroin addictions. He comes to understand that light and darkness exist together in the real world, with different drawbacks and benefits, just as they both exist within Sonny. The narrator begins by being downright petrified of the light, and when Sonny and his fellow musicians cross into the light, it is like a barrier is broken in his mind that allows the narrator to finally understand. He finally saw Sonny happy, and saw him grinning. He saw Sonny as a god, a creator of his own world. Despite all of the darkness that Sonny has inside of him, and in his past, he is able to embrace the light and not be afraid. Sonny was “so touched he could have cried” in this moment and he “put his hand to his heart”; it is the culmination of two emotional responses, crying is combined with love for what he does. Even the keys of the piano are light and dark and lie next to each other. The piano is beautiful and real and emotional with all of its lights and darknesses, the same goes for Sonny’s music, and the same goes for his and the narrator’s lives.
The symbol of light develops as the brothers begin to understand each other and themselves more. Sonny began by “…trying to climb out of some deep, real deep, and funky hole and just saw the sun up there, outside.” (pg 618). The narrator began by seeing “the darkness growing against the windowpanes” (pg 622) during his childhood. In the two passages, we see that the narrator originally saw darkness everywhere, but through Sonny’s music and true emotion, the narrator begins to understand that light will not cause anyone to “perish”. Rather, some light- and some pure optimism- is part of life.
The use of light and darkness draws to a conclusion on the final page; Sonny’s music was “burning”, and yet “trouble stretched above [them], longer than the sky”. The final line portrays Sonny as “glowing”. A man who clearly had much darkness in his life, and who will probably have similar darknesses in his future, still has the potential and talent to “glow”. Dark and light are the struggles of life that are depicted in “Sonny’s Blues”; from this we see that light can be too extreme, and darkness can be the reality that must be accepted. They exist together and balance each other: one cannot live in pure light, as Sonny tried through his music, heroin, and desire to transcend; one cannot live in deep darkness, as the narrator tried through stifling his emotions. Sonny certainly did have his darknesses, and the narrato had his lights.
The Impact of Guilt in Sonny’s Blues, a Short Story by James Baldwin
In the story “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin the narrator explains the hardships that mainly his brother had to face, but also the rest of his family faced when he was a child. He displays this by telling a continuous stream of stories indirectly reflecting the racism and segregation faced where they grew up. Also, through this the narrator shows the lack of human rights given to people around him due to the circumstances.
Racism is the dark undercurrent that flows through "Sonny's Blues". It is rarely referenced directly but its pull can be felt continuously. For example, Baldwin mentions housing projects that rise out of Harlem like "rocks in the middle of the boiling sea" (Baldwin 80). The result of local and federal segregationist housing policies, the projects depict the impact of racism on a community. However, even despite racism being slightly more prominent in certain areas such as the projects it is acknowledged that racism is still a threat anywhere when the narrator talks about how when his mother suggest the family move to a safer area the father would always say, “Safe” “Safe, hell! Ain’t no place safe for kids, nor nobody.” (Baldwin 81). Similarly, much of Sonny’s brother's dismay for his students can be attributed to the fact that they are much like Sonny and they live in system that will ruthlessly and endlessly discriminates against them.
Throughout the story it is apparent that many factors led to the difficulties Sonny faces during his life. However, it would appear that the main responsibility to his ultimate downfall of landing in prison is on the racist society he dwelled in. However, the responsibility ends up weighing on Sonny’s brother not only due to the inherent relational responsibilities between a younger and older sibling, but due to the request of their mother to look over Sonny in her absence. This request bring the constant and vague influence of racism throughout the story to the forefront, as, when the narrator's mother explains how drunken white men killed her her brother-in-law and warns the brother that something similar could happen to Sonny, showing much of the suffering in the story referred to can be attributed to the effects of racism. The mother’s actions are explained when the brother speaks of suffering as something passed down from one generation to the next in the African American community, making racism culprit of Sonny and his brother’s current state of misfortune.
All of the subliminal insertion of the ever prominent theme of racism also addresses human rights in the story. Human rights are addressed in the aspect that many of those in the narrator’s family and those in the community around them were stripped of them due to racism. For example, the way the brother describes the projects as being new at first, but later had become rundown despite the inhabitants effort to keep them pristine like the home in a wealthier neighborhood. This somewhat implies that the homes were not good quality, as despite efforts they couldn’t be kept up to standard. Being given these homes shows a lack of human rights since one of the basic human rights is shelter, and if the ‘shelter’ you live in inferior to others it may keep you from moving towards achieving things other than acquiring a more stable shelter. Also, there is that fact that Sonny’s troubles are due to the fact he had been engaged in activities that would help him escape the projects. The narrator acknowledges this saying, “The moment Sonny and I started into that house I had a feeling that I was simply bringing him back into the danger he had almost died trying to escape.” (Baldwin 81). It implies that their life in the project were so insufferable to the point that Sonny was willing to risk his life doing drugs and other illegal activities to get away from it. This shows how those in power had very little regard for certain people’s lives and put those they lack regard for in positions that they themselves wouldn’t want to be in.
Therefore, the narrator’s recollections of his past show his feeling of guilt towards the hardships that have befallen his brother. This sense of guilt is also heavily shown through his sense of foreboding for the future of his students. These conflicts are intensified by the constant presence of racism and foreboding of hardships to befall him and those around him in the future.
An Examination of Black Oppression in the Short Story Sonny’s Blues and the Speech I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr.
“Sonny’s Blues” and “I Have a Dream”: Presentation of Black Oppression
In practical subjects, like math, it is often frowned upon to find your own way of doing something. Students are expected to pay attention to their lessons and use the exact same methods that are presented to figure out problems that are given to them. Literature, a much more liberal subject, allows for a writer to reach their conclusion through any means they see fit. This literary liberty results in many different pieces that have the same goal, theme, or message. James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech use two different techniques and styles to discuss the issue of black oppression in America. Baldwin’s short story uses the life of a fictional character to show the disadvantages and hardships typical in the lives of black Americans. King’s speech uses forceful figurative language and repetition to call his audience to action and fight racial segregation. Both authors focus on the condition of black America, but what each chooses to do with the subject is completely different in style and approach.
Baldwin uses a technique for presenting the subject of racial inequality that presents his message through his characters and their experiences. The use of fiction to discuss a real world issue makes the writing more creative and more accessible to a broader audience. The type of fictional political writing that is seen in Sonny’s Blues aims to combine enjoyable reading with a clear, strong point. Baldwin’s purpose in his technique is to make his message more accessible to a wider audience. He writes so that all people could understand his writing, not just his peers or other people of the same intellect. The style Baldwin uses for his piece allows more people to read and understand his work than would if he were to have written a scholarly nonfiction essay on the same subject.
In “Sonny’s Blues” Baldwin tells the story of the struggle of black people with racial inequality using a nameless narrator. The narrator himself has a decent life with a relatively uneventful upbringing, a good job, and a family. The narrator’s brother, Sonny, is not as fortunate. Sonny, the character used as the poster for black disadvantage, is a heroin addict and dealer. He struggles with incarceration due to drugs, trying to make his family proud, and finding a passion for something in his life. The author uses Sonny as an example of how young black men in America can easily fall onto the wrong path as a result of the disadvantages that they inherit when they are born. In the beginning of the story, the narrator explains the day he found out that his brother had been arrested for drug possession. In his story Baldwin writes, “…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.” The narrator acknowledges the vulnerability of all his young students to be negatively socialized by their surroundings. He can see that they have the same chance of falling prey to societal evils that Sonny did. The narrator knows that his brother’s hardships are a result of the environment he grew up in and is therefore able to recognize his students’ susceptibility to going down that same road. This is the point that Baldwin makes. He implies that black people grow up and make decisions based on the strong influences created by black oppression in the society they live in. He further argues that the decisions they make tend to be negative and harmful.
Martin Luther King Jr., unlike Baldwin, took the most direct route possible to address the problem facing his people. While Baldwin’s fictional story took a more observational approach to the issue, King’s speech was direct. He looked his audience in the eye and pleaded with them to take action, warning that if they did not act their condition would not improve. He analyzed the situation of Blacks in America and then told them exactly what they needed to do to fix it. In contrast to Baldwin’s laidback style, King wrote and delivered his speech with an extremely high level of urgency. Recognizing the directness, and sort of nonfiction, of King’s speech is not to say that it was not artfully crafted. “I Have a Dream” is of the most significant speeches in American history. King’s speech is loaded with figurative language, repetition, and other literary devices. The speech is a work of art that was used to inspire action. The goal in using the frequent metaphors and repetition in the speech is meant to hold the audience’s attention and arouse feedback. King is clearly successful in accomplishing that goal because during the speech, the audience is actively engaged and responsive. They agree verbally, they cheer, they shout. Like Baldwin, King’s aim in using writing techniques that make his text more accessible is to make his message able to be communicated to a broader audience. He plays to the audience he has and it makes the speech highly effective.
While “Sonny’s Blues” and “I Have a Dream” use two completely different structural methods in broaching the subject of racial inequality, they do focus on similar points. One common theme between the two works is unity. In “Sonny’s Blues” this topic is brought up in the scene between the narrator and Sonny’s mother. The mother tells the narrator that he has to look out for Sonny because Sonny has no one else. Baldwin uses this scene to discuss how familial support and togetherness are incredibly important in achieving success. King’s speech, too, incorporates unity as a central theme. Though this statement it is not written explicitly, the speech is directed to the audience as a whole. He uses the term “we” throughout the entire speech to communicate that he and the audience and every black person are all in it together. The turnout of the audience combined with the speech itself shows how important unity is and how much of a difference it can make.
Presentation is a huge part of writing. Demonstrated in James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the method of presentation that an author chooses hugely affects how effective a work is in reaching its audience. Although Baldwin and King travel different roads, they reach the same destination: addressing racial segregation in America. Baldwin illustrates the day-to-day reality of it and King issues an inspirational call to action.
Analysis of Harlem Story in Sonny’s Blues
“Sonny’s Blues”, written by James Baldwin is a short fiction story published in 1957. The story takes place at the beginning of the civil rights movement. It describes the relationship between two brothers, one that has fallen in the drug cycle of Harlem, and the other who tried to not repeat the same pattern and become a successful man. Nonetheless, throughout the beginning of the story, we can understand that the setting (Harlem), has a significant impact on their relationship, as they describe their problem. Because the cycle of drugs in Harlem, among the African American community was why sonny ended where he was at the time because he wanted to escape the feeling of being trapped by his surroundings, compare to his brother who was able to break it. Throughout the story, the reader can tell that instead of people venturing into Harlem with hopes of changing their life, Harlem turned into a rundown, poor city.
A place that was thought of as a place for people to run away to, was a place that trapped people. In “Sonny’s Blues” Baldwin described Harlem depicts this entrapment. He makes it known that a lot of people are no longer happy there, but for those with no money and who have already fallen under the weight of the city’s bad habits it was extremely hard to get out. The most obvious example was Sonny’s addiction to heroin. The narrator also seemed to be trapped in Harlem as well, despite his college degree, and the fact that he did not give in to the pressures of drugs. Baldwin also mentions a failing school system and a lack of resources that may have also kept residents in Harlem. The town’s success which was turned to poverty and sorrow was also illustrated in Baldwin’s story. He speaks a lot about the darkness of the events, people, and the town itself, and all of the tragedies that hunt the memories of the characters. Sonny’s Blues bops the reader over the head with Billy’s clubs of proliferation tragedies: the uncle’s murder, the estranged brothers, Sonny’s arrest, the daughter’s sudden death by polio, the eternal recurrence of heroin addiction, and all the other tales submerged in the passing references to the background characters that populate the story’s Harlem scene.
However, the darkness that fills Harlem during this time can also be associated, with the racism that African Americans have been running from and thought they’d escaped by going to Harlem was catching up to them. They’re now realizing there is a large African American population concentrated in one area that is almost set aside. After believing that Harlem would be fulfilling, the African American citizens are beginning to see that it was a place for the dominant white culture to prison them. Overall, it’s important to understand the history behind Harlem when inquiring “Sonny’s Blues” because Baldwin conveys the hardship of racism, drug and alcohol abuse, and impoverishment that filled Harlem at this time between the prosperous Harlem Renaissance, the battles of World War I, the Great Depression, the Great Migration and the Civil Rights Movement. Baldwin also mimics through his characters that, through the tragic lives they lived they were able to become more appreciative and respectful of life.
Analysis of Bigotry Presented in Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin
Bigotry is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. Racial separatism is the belief, most of the time based on racism, that different races should remain segregated and apart from one another. Bigotry was a huge deal in the 20th century as racism became socially taboo, America’s peculiar phenomenon morphed again, into an interlocking complex of institutional practices that present a new set of extraordinary challenges for black Americans. The short story ‘Sonny’s Blues’ written by James Baldwin considers how society is today, explicitly institutional bigotry. Institutional bigotry portrays the manner by which individuals experience the ill effects of prejudice, since it is there in the structure of society structures like the police, the lawful framework, organizations, etc., as the story happens in Harlem in the 20th century.
We have two brothers, but in this story, we see them as very different people with their own life values and points of view. Each of them owns individual problems and conflicts and in the process of interaction and approaching to one friendly family, they stumble upon some new challenging situations and conflict. The major conflict for Sonny is heroin addiction and constant suffering, he does not have enough willingness, inner power and self-control to live better, not only for the sale of himself but also for the sake of his family and people who really care about him. Sonny’s blues questions start to arise themselves from the story in order to solve a lot of problems which are too close to our current society and deserves to be discussed, explored and addressed. James Baldwin brilliantly organized the plot and selected the right characters to raise the problems. Prejudice is the dim inclination that courses through ‘Sonny’s Blues’. It is infrequently referenced straightforwardly yet its draw can be felt constantly. For instance, Baldwin mentions decrepit housing projects that rise out of Harlem like ‘rocks in the middle of the boiling sea’. The aftereffect of neighborhood and government segregationist lodging strategies, the undertakings speak to the effect of bigotry on a down trodden network.
In like manner, a significant part of the storyteller’s nervousness for the benefit of his understudies can be ascribed to the way that they, similar to Sonny, are youthful African American men living in a framework that mercilessly and interminably oppresses them. What inspired Baldwin to publish this book in 1957 was after the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education; however, it was not really until the Civil Rights Act of 1960 signed by President Eisenhower that desegregation started to have some impact since several states had defied the previous rulings. On May 24, 1963, James Baldwin himself assembled a group of black leaders who met with Attorney General Robert Kennedy to discuss race relations. He had grown up in Harlem, which he described as a ‘dreadful place… a kind of concentration camp’ because it was ‘dehumanizing.’, says the attorney. With that be being said it gives Baldwin an insight that due to racism people especially African Americans are mostly seen in poverty areas with little to lose during that time period. Bigotry can have a social affect to a person as it can cause them to suffer in their current lifestyle. As Baldwin passionately argues, inescapable. This suffering is symbolized throughout the work by darkness, which encroaches upon the lives of the narrator’s family and community, something to be borne and endured. Sonny explains that his heroin usage is an attempt to cope with suffering that would otherwise paralyze him. Yet suffering, for all the pain it causes, is essential to both art and redemption. Sonny comments on ‘how much suffering must have had to go through’ in order to sing so beautifully.
One can imagine that Sonny’s music comes from similarly dark experiences. Suffering and darkness, if used creatively, can produce works of unparalleled beauty. Suffering also confers the ability to understand and feel true compassion for others, which is essential for redemption. In like manner, Prejudice can take numerous structures and influences a huge number of individuals in Ireland today. There’s the conspicuous ordinary bigotry, where individuals are called names, manhandled and annoyed. At that point, there’s the sort of prejudice that is increasingly unpretentious. This is the sort of bigotry that makes it harder for individuals to land positions or lodging in light of their shading or nationality. All types of bigotry include making presumptions and speculations or generalizations about individuals who are an alternate shading. These generalizations frequently see other individuals as second rate, and are utilized to legitimize the rejection of individuals from circumstances, assets and power. Indeed, even today, the specialists, a few legislators and segments of the media will elevate supremacist thoughts to legitimize their perspectives on specific issues. These might incorporate joblessness, lodging deficiencies and wrongdoing. As per the ESRI, in 2006 25% of dark individuals state they’ have been racially mishandled or compromised over the most recent a year’. This can relate how sonny was perpetrating a wrongdoing by mishandling drugs because of experiencing prejudice and being an untouchable to a white men society. Ireland social issue with bigotry is where Ms. Fitzgerald gives a brief description of Ireland as monocultural ignores its small indigenous black population, the increasing numbers of European, African, Asian and Middle-Eastern residents in the country, as well as 21,000 Irish travelers, all of whom live with prejudice and discrimination. Her own sense ‘of not belonging and of not being fully understood,’ she says, made her question ‘whether I had the right to bring a child, whose cultural origins would be as complex as my own, into such an unthinking society. ‘My experience of racism in Ireland began as a student,’ she recalls. ‘In a small city where black women were virtually non-existent, I was particularly conspicuous on and off campus. My middle class, black femaleness was perceived as `exotic’, `exciting’, `dangerous’. I was stared at, often to the point of rudeness, particularly when walking through the college canteen, a torture I soon gave up.” These feelings of ‘inferiority and unacceptable difference’ continued when she began to work in Ireland, and later when she married an Irishman.
The text relates back to how the Narrator and Sonny is suffering from the world they live in, and pain they endured their entire life “The darkness outside is what the old folks have been talking about. It’s what they’ve come from. It’s what they endure. The child knows they won’t talk anymore because if he knows too much about what’s happened to them, he’ll know too much too soon, about what’s going to happen to him”, which indicates suffering can pass down from one generation to the next. The parents want to protect the children for as long as they can, but they know that suffering will be an inevitable part of their lives. But for now, the children can remain blissfully ignorant of what’s looming ahead. James Baldwin accomplished many things through the writing and publishing of “Sonny’s Blues.” Not only does the story serve as a memoir into the lives of African Americans in Harlem during the 1950’s, but also the story portrays the struggles that are often faced in relationships in regards to ethical and moral values and responsibilities. Taking everything into account, Sonny’s blues can consider what is as yet happening today In Ireland where the individuals who lives still experience the ill effects of institutional bigotry as of 2019.
Explication Analysis Of The Poem Sonny’s Blues By James Baldwin
In the poem “Sonny’s Blues” written by James Baldwin was narrated from the perspective of Sonny’s brother. The poem goes along to tell a story about an African American math teacher in 1950s Harlem, to his brother Sonny, a jazz pianist who has dealt with heroin addiction at a young age. Unlike many of the young boys in the neighborhood, Sonny is not hard or brutal. He keeps all of his problems bottled up except when he plays music. The narrator develops a better understanding of Sonny’s Blues which was his struggle by finally listening to both his brother’s words and his music. “I can’t tell you much about how I got here. I mean I don’t know how to tell you. I guess I was afraid of something or I was trying to escape from something and you know I have never been very strong in the head (smile).”
In this part of the poem sunny is trying to say what he feels but he’s at war with his feelings and his morals. This becomes very hard for him to open up because he’s not used to being cared for and being asked to open up. “I’m glad Mama and Daddy are dead and can’t see what’s happened to their son and I swear if I’d known what I was doing I would never have hurt you so, you and a lot of other fine people who were nice to me and who believed in me. I don’t want you to think it had anything to do with me being a musician.” This part gets deep in the way that he’s happy they can’t see what he’s become. Although at the same time there is a sense of innocents since he said “if I knew what I was doing” so in other words he didn’t know what he was causing with his actions. “It’s more than that. Or maybe less than that. I can’t get anything straight in my head down here and I try not to think about what’s going to happen to me when I get outside again.” He is clearly at war with himself trying to decipher what things are right and which are wrong. “Sometimes I think I’m going to flip and never get outside and sometimes I think I’ll come straight back. I tell you one thing, though, I’d rather blow my brains out than go through this again.” In this section, he’s admitting to his wrongs and doesn’t want to do those wrongs again.
Thus leading us to conclude that he is aware of his mistakes and doesn’t want them to happen again. “But that’s what they all say, so they tell me. If I tell you when I’m coming to New York and if you could meet me, I sure would appreciate it. Give my love to Isabel and the kids and I was sure sorry to hear about little Gracie. I wish I could be like Mama and say the Lord’s will be done, but I don’t know it seems to me that trouble is the one thing that never does get stopped and I don’t know what good it does to blame it on the”. Finally we are left to see that he wishes to be different but struggles to get passed what he’s been through and move forward. In conclusion, we can see this internal war going on in his brain, battling his past and his emotions. He is left to fight and push past his old ways to be whom he knows he can be.
Analysis Of Sonny’s Blues By James Baldwin
James Baldwin’s ‘Sonny’s Blues’ is the tale of a youthful jazz artist (Sonny) from Harlem, NY who gets dependent on heroin, is captured for utilizing and selling medications, and comes back to his youth neighborhood after his discharge from jail. He moves in with his more established sibling (the story’s storyteller) and his sibling’s family. The two siblings kind of reconnect following an exceptionally tense couple of weeks during which both attempt to manage their resentment towards one another. Medications are a focal piece of the story, but on the other hand it’s about family, music, and attempting to beat life’s battles. Harlem was Baldwin’s main residence, and he was conceived there in 1924. In his teenagers, he functioned as a Pentecostal minister, affected by his dad. However as he developed more seasoned, he moved away from the impact of the congregation. He got himself a loft in the craftsman’s area of Greenwich Village, NY and after that, in 1948, to some extent because of the estrangement he felt as a gay dark man in the US, he moved to Paris.
Baldwin’s abstract notoriety blossomed with his semi-personal first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, distributed in 1953. He’s most renowned for his works that manage the experience of being a dark man in America before the Civil Rights Movement.
At the point when ‘Sonny’s Blues’ was distributed in 1957, Baldwin was at that point known on the scholarly scene. The story showed up in Partisan Review, one of America’s most well-regarded diaries at the time. Baldwin distributed it again in 1965 in his accumulation of short stories qualified Going for Meet the Man. The story all alone gathered an a lot of positive basic consideration, however pundits had altogether different thoughts regarding what the story was extremely about. Baldwin had built up a notoriety for expounding on African-American causes, so was the tale about race? Some idea so. Or then again would it say it was about music? Or then again the dangers of medication use? Or on the other hand mankind by and large? Perusers saw the majority of this in the story. In any case, whatever subject pundits concentrated on, most concurred that ‘Sonny’s Blues’ was a pretty darn momentous bit of writing. The most significant topics throughout Sonny’s life are music and enduring. His blues come from the physical and passionate agony he has endured throughout the years as a vagrant and medication fanatic in a poor African American neighborhood. Without this torment, Sonny would have no material for his music and would be not able make workmanship.
For the storyteller, the most significant topic of the story likely could be misfortune. His life has been loaded with disaster: the passings of his folks, the revulsions of war, the loss of his two-year-old little girl to polio, and the misery of watching his sibling’s life break down. This misery penetrates his account voice, making the tone of the story one of agony and dissatisfaction.
Race and bigotry are fundamental subjects in ‘Sonny’s Blues.’ The storyteller and Sonny speak to two unique ways for African American men: one, training and decency; the other, crime, medicate misuse, and jail time. Baldwin utilizes his characters to represent the mischief fundamental prejudice has had on the African American people group.
The storyteller sets that the Blues, which are essentially accounts of anguish and reclamation, are not especially unique, yet that they enable the performer and his group of spectators to interface – and that association and comprehension is the main genuine respite mankind will have from torment. This reflection on the significance of the Blues is applicable not exclusively to music however to composing. ‘Sonny’s Blues’ is, much like the melodic structure it was enlivened by, a story of agony and salvation. The storyteller, lost and disengaged from his underlying foundations, winds up by reconnecting with his more youthful sibling and encounters, when tuning in to Sonny’s music. Baldwin’s composing in this manner can be comprehended as an endeavor to associate with his group of spectators and encourage genuine comprehension.
Music permits Sonny not exclusively to find himself, however to reconnect with his legacy. Through playing jazz, an African American melodic structure, Sonny turns out to be a piece of a more extensive network. His music helps the storyteller to remember his own misery, his mom and father’s affliction and a more extensive inheritance of African American anguish. Listening enables the storyteller to associate with the piece of himself he was estranged from: his underlying foundations. However Sonny isn’t just mirroring those that have preceded him. He summons his legacy however isn’t overpowered by it. Through experimentation he attests his very own character. His music is both all-inclusive and individual, both saturated with network history and extraordinarily Sonny’s.
The theory in James Baldwin’s ‘Sonny’s Blues’ includes the relationship of the storyteller, an African American math educator in 1950s Harlem, to his sibling Sonny, a jazz piano player who has managed heroin dependence. The storyteller builds up a superior comprehension of Sonny’s blues (his specific battle) by at last tuning in to the two his sibling’s words and his music. The essential discussion about enduring happens after Sonny has tuned in to a road vocalist and trusted in his sibling that her.
Critical Analysis of James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues
When reading the short story ‘Sonny’s Blues’ you can see it is Baldwin’s exceptionally acclaimed treatment of his trademark subjects the kind of diversion, race cognations in the United States singular anguish, and withal the use of craftsmanship. In the 1950s, NYC, the story is portrayed by an innominate person who associates his attempts to manage his repulsed kin, a jazz performer, Sonny. With additionally understanding you can, imagine the ‘surprising survey of this Diminish conceptual inheritance in America is its own focus to the relationship of friendly and individual undertaking,’ that has figured ‘Sonny’s Blues’ them and both brings out and demonstrates the genuineness which the notionally hypothetical enunciation of individual, regardless, unremarkable experience is one response for flexibility. Once finished the essay you can see how Sonny has risen from the confrontations that he has endured throughout the plot. From the story you could see ‘Sonny’s Blues’ is kind of a tough story to read for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that it focuses so much on human suffering. This is probably something we can all relate to on some level. When Sonny is in high school he turns to drugs because he feels trapped in Harlem trapped in school, and trapped by what he’s supposed to do versus what he wants to do. He’s trying to find his way in the world, not quite an adult but not a kid anymore. So does he cave in to the temptations or does he stay strong and come out of the hole he would put himself in if he goes down this path. Once reading the story you can see that ‘Sonny’s Blues’ was a remarkable piece of literature.
There was a preference in the story that depicted what happened in light of the way that the battles that Sonny needs to involution and the shade of his skin are an obstacle to the movement of society. The story’s major characters, in any case, not just battle through a duncish world without trademark centrality yet should in like way spread on in a general populace that drives forward bias. In ‘Sonny’s Blues ‘the creator evaluations to these issues by using commensurable characteristics of haziness and weight, amalgamating pictures of restriction, and offering depictions of life in contemporary Harlem and, through the storyteller’s memory of his childhood and family through the American South. For example, Baldwin portrays rundown lodging wanders that develop out of Harlem like ‘shakes in the midst of the percolating sea’. The eventual outcome of adjacent and administration segregationist lodging procedures, the undertakings verbalize with the impact of dogmatism on an overwhelmed gathering. Besides, an incredible piece of the storyteller’s pressure in light of a legitimate concern for his understudies can be credited to the way that they, similar to Sonny, are young African American men living in a system that brutally and never-endingly deceives them. The predictable and questionable effect of partiality, finally, winds up strikingly unequivocal and clear when the storyteller’s mother explains how put white men slaughtered her sibling by espousement. She alerts the storyteller that a similar predetermination could happen for Sonny, showing her stress that preference is up ’til now an unquestionable hazard to the family.
Also, you can see the fights that I determined that Sonny needs to challenge in the auxiliary school time of his lifetime. This is a position colossal quantities of us end up in when we’re in optional school. Regardless of all that we have to tune in to our people, instructors, coaches, et cetera., yet we also have our own specific considerations and sentiments, our own specific advantages and points of view of the world. It can be so frustrating when we don’t find the opportunity to express those or feel that they’re not viewed as essential. This is unequivocally what happens with Sonny. His kin wouldn’t appreciate his like to be an entertainer or why he’d have to join the military before finishing school. Sonny feels obliged on a gathering of levels, and we think this is a totally ordinary thing to defy as energetic adults. So in a turmoil, terrible place sonny’s one saving grace is his music, through which he can express the dominant part of his significant arranged longing and disappointment. Sonny’s music offers him a plausibility at recuperation, yet meanwhile, it moreover undermines to obliterate him. To make music, Sonny needs to hold up under the torment and tragedies of his life and each one of the lives around him. He makes an elucidation of that burden into an inventive enunciation that finally, paying little respect to the likelihood that solitary quickly, recuperates his social occasion of individuals. There is something gallant, for all intents and purposes Christlike, to the way Sonny offers himself up to his music. He understands that playing music may devastate him by driving him yet again into a presence of drugs, yet he furthermore understands that it’s a weight that he needs to hold up under.
We’d in all probability all get a kick out of the opportunity to induce that Sonny genuinely recoups that he’s prepared to go up against down his ‘blues,’ and the substance irrefutably supports this comprehension. However, it’s basic to be keen on various illustrations also and we feel that is what’s truly extraordinary about composing at any rate. So maybe Sonny will constantly be dealing with the ‘blues.’ That he excessively required, making it impossible to go up against what he was fighting around then and that shows to us that you can push through anything.