The following sample essay on “Sonny’s Blues” familiarizes the reader with the topic-related facts, theories, and approaches.
In James Baldwin’s short story, “Sonny’s Blues,” the narrator tried to appreciate the life of his brother Sonny. Set in post-Korean War Harlem, “Sonny’s Blues” places importance on the African-American community’s effort economically and socially to turn out to be successful. This struggle can also turn out to be anyone’s battle and not just that of the African-American living in the ghetto.
The story covers the trials and tribulations that a young, amateur pianist of Harlem has to undergo growing up on the mean streets. Baldwin tears apart and then revives the relationship of two brothers who have lost their parents.Baldwin does a spectacular job of putting this story into words. Baldwin’s impeccable use of character development just adds to his entire mastery of plot and point of view.
Sonny’s Blues is a demonstration to the adolescence of torture Sonny suffers to reach a rather better existence than the one he has at all times known and hoped to keep away from.
Plot is a sequence of events. “Sonny’s Blues” is a touching portrayal of African-American life in the mid-twentieth-century (Baldwin, James 2002). In Sonny’s case, he attempts to conquer his heroin addiction, a sign of the lack of opportunities the ghetto offers, with music as he plays blues and jazz on piano. Hence, in Baldwin’s story the significance of creativity as a means of expression and of evading reality is established throughout Sonny.
General DiscussionCreativity can be used to communicate the history of one’s life and culture. Thorell Tsomondo said that “the artist historian is a kind of poet-prophet… bound at once to tradition and to change” (195). Sonny’s story includes broken dreams and monumental agony, which may have caused or maybe were the consequences of his heroin addiction. In playing the piano, Sonny turned out to be a story teller and he tells regarding the struggle him and his audience daily experience: the actuality of poverty, crime, and oppression. Even as he reestablishes the tale of his life, he must build a new sound to push forward and escape the reality. Sonny “lead[s] his audience to a heightened, shared awareness of their cultural identity” when he gives his “heroic, bardic performance” with Creole and the band (Thorell 196).
The music that Sonny makes is a phrase of his African-American history not just in Harlem but in the society they live in as a whole. Since this history is not just his personal story, but a relative story of a culture of minorities and subjected to repression by a nation ruled by the white majority, the audience knows accurately what he’s “talking” about with every note emitted from his piano.In regards to the music Sonny, Creole, and the man on the horn play, Tracey Sherard considers that it is more possible to be a variation of blues, particularly a form of jazz called Bebop (691). Sherard goes on to argue that “jazz… represents a revision of the blues that allows for commentary on the disappointing economic and social conditions of African-American urban culture” (692). In playing jazz, Sonny pushes for a fresh representation of his emotions.
Older and more conventional forms of blues were possibly too stale to convey the bitterness of life. Only a new sound can let the liberty to discover the stagnation of possibilities and the pessimistic situation Sonny faced. He could mute this reality with heroin, but sobriety always resurfaces and he uses music to escape, to run ahead of the despair. Creativity turns to be a way to escape the reality of repetition as well, that of “houses exactly like the houses . . . [and] boys exactly like the boys” they come across again and again in Harlem (Baldwin 71).There will always be hope of a better place, and of a better life.
Seeing the cycle of faces and lives dampens the hope, though, so with no means of physically removing oneself then mentally a method must be created to flee. For Sonny, the method is music guiding the dull roar of reality inside his mind and soul into an intelligible song. For the song to also pull the same roar from the listener and allow a temporary release from its hold there cannot be a compromise on creativity; the song must surprise and tug the audience along not by the ear, but by the heart.
As the narrator put it, the musician, or any creator, must be able to go in the “Deep water” without drowning (Baldwin 87). The difference in treading deep water and drowning as the difference between “acceptance of and dialogue with one’s past’ and “fear of venturing away from the “shoreline” of the . . . past” (Sherard 701).One must dive headfirst and go swimming with strength in order to completely understand and utilize the lessons of life. The lessons of Harlem that Sonny sought to share and move past all at once in song were lessons he could not hide from forever. Instead of fearing the roar inside, he brought it to life through creativity. Most important in creativity is the possibilities that it brings to situations.
Thorell says this is because, “more potent that the story that the music tells is the aesthetic intensification of feeling that it evokes, it signifies pure possibility” (199). Sonny’s music then, even when lacking spoken word, speaks to the true sensations that be located inside the mind, sensations of love, hope, despair, disillusion, bitterness, and desire. This entanglement of emotion is an influential and unstable force to reckon with, and music helps to relieve the artist and the audience into profound water and not drown. The key to diving into deep water and surviving is “improvisation . . . an act of critical interpretation” (Thorell 199).So while Sonny, in his act of creation, brings out his past with music, he also proclaims himself free from any holds it might place upon him because he remains critical of the past. These hold come to physical being in the form of Sonny’s heroin addiction, which is only a sign of poverty and despair. These realities push Sonny to create which in return pushes him beyond the realm of reality.Creativity, then, becomes a kingdom of its own, a refuge for the broken and searching artist. Music will continue to evolve, and will persevere as a cultural and social commentary.
What one culture finds inspiring and inventive, like the bar audience in “Sonny’s Blues” finds in jazz, will not be so to another. Each culture has its own sound to express the reality the members experience, and at the same time the sound carries them away from that reality if only temporarily. While Baldwin’s story is about music, creativity of course is important in all fields of art, literature, and academics.ConclusionCreativity has become a vital survival tool by mankind, which Baldwin clearly illustrates in Sonny’s Blues. The story clarifies that through the reactions of his narrator to the story’s events, James Baldwin is able to demonstrate the shared incidents of members of his race. Also, discusses the darkness that covers his life and his brother’s life. The writer points out that the narrator’s triumphant assimilation into typical society does not free from the experiences shared by other African-Americans who have not been as able to break away from their social roots. The story is about “What people go through in order to get away from the cruelty of the world?”
James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” is the story concerning the clash of sensibilities between two brothers. Baldwin’s story is heartbreaking and unforgettable, and it pursues the story of the young protagonist, John, with suffering and understanding. Obviously, Baldwin had experienced what he wrote about, and he understood the cravings and uncertainties that plagued a fourteen-year-old growing up in Harlem in 1935 (Troup, Quincy 1989). John desires to a great extent to please his father, as most young people do, but the obstacle between them is far too huge for John to understand or recognize. It is somewhat easy to empathize with John and his growing up, for the reason that it has happened to everyone, and his struggles point out that in spite of race, people have the same insecurities and longings as people grow from children into adults. John thinks to himself, “And he desired to be one of them, playing in the streets, unfrightened, moving with such refinement and control, but he knew this could not be”.;