The stories that have been chosen for the essay are ‘Sonny’s Blues’ by James Baldwin and ‘Paul’s Case’ by Willa Cather. These stories have a lot in common but they are also very different in their approach towards life. It can be said that the similarities become the contrasts due to the negative use of ideas. The main characters in both the stories are rebels. Their ideas are radical and against the norms of the society. The love for music, art, theater and the ambience of beauty is in the rebels, both Sonny and Paul.
This is a similarity they share but the contrast comes in when music uplifts Sonny from his ‘blues’ or misfortune and gives him a reason to live, Paul does not want to work towards a better life in order to enjoy the art which he loves. The ending in the stories is the surprise element. The difference in the point of view of the characters changes the ending, completely.
Sonny’s outlook is of hope and the future is bright because of positive thinking while Paul’s end is a long tunnel of depression which ends in despair where he gives up his life. In “Sonny’s Blues”, Sonny is a rebel who in his very young days became a drug addict.
His brother, the narrator of the story, had not met him for a very long time. The brother wanted to help Sonny to get on with his life. Sonny loved music.
He loved to play the piano, it uplifted him. This was “his world”. It liberated him from his troubles and turbulation of life. Sonny takes his brother to the club where he plays, to make him understand his passion and conviction for music and how much he has suffered. He is now on the path to recovery. After his performance Sonny looks at his brother, nods and takes a sip of the drink sent by his brother for him.
This moment describes the understanding which they share and how their relationship grows. In “Paul’s Case”, Paul is a rebel who is in constant trouble at school with his teachers as he has an attitude problem. His “defiant manner and his whole attitude was symbolized by his shrug and his flippantly red carnation flower which he wore when he had to appear before his principal and teachers. His relationship with his family, his father is nonexistent. He took Paul out of school and put him to work at a factory, while his job as an usher at Carnegie Hall which acted as his temporary refuge from his life was snatched away from him .
Paul too loved music. He loved the ambience of Carnegie hall and even though the symphonies did not mean anything to him it “freed some hilarious and potent spirit within him. He felt a sudden zest of life. ” He loved the good life which he tried to live with the stolen money in New York. He stayed at Waldorf Astoria Hotel, got fancy shoes, shopped at Tiffany’s and this was how he wanted to live his life as he describes it as “only for a moment, these were his own people, he told himself. ”
However, the difference in the point of view of the main characters changed the end of the stories. Sonny is a recovering drug addict who makes music his source of inspiration to work towards a better future. His family is his support. He makes his brother understand what he has gone through and explains his need to get away from the atmosphere which had pulled him in the dark hole. In ‘Sonny’s Blues’ life is approached with a positive attitude. In ‘Paul’s Case’, Paul had no reconciliation with his family, when he had to return to Cornelia Street (his home) he did not want to go back.
He ends his life rather than face the reality of the situation. He lived in his dream world but had no intention of working for a better life. Hence, we see that the difference of attitude of dealing with problems of the main characters, Sonny and Paul affect the stories. Though the stories are set in different times, the characters and the problems are prevalent in every generation. The main thing is how we deal with them because that is what changes the direction of one’s fate.