"Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin Critical Analysis

"Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin Critical Analysis

Stephen Hamilton
Professor T. Clark
English 201
4 March 2008
“Sonny’s Blues” Authored by: James Baldwin
Drugs, Music, and Culture have interacted together in various heights of conflict and harmony throughout modern day music, affecting the creators and patrons alike.   James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” is a depiction of this triangle of cultural relations that has affected three generations of America Culture.   Sonny, a pathless protagonist of the story finds music as his aim of escaping society’s African American brutal oppression in the 1950’s.   Sonny’s brother makes the claim, “But there’s no need…is there?   In killing yourself?” (Baldwin 59) referring to Sonny’s drug use in his musical escapes while playing nightclubs as a pianist in Greenwich Village.   In the story "Sonny’s Blues" Sonny's brother makes the inaccurate assertion Sonny wants to die; in reality Sonny’s is simply trying to escape society's oppression.
While living with Sonny’s brother’s family, talking in the afternoon with the brothers alone for the night; Sonny was talking about using heroin, “…what heroin feels like-when it’s in your veins…It makes you feel-in control.   Sometimes you have to have that feeling.” (Baldwin 58)   The commentary prior elaborated this statement when examining the singing quartet on their street and the struggles they went through to be able to sing like that, referring to the pain and passion in their voices.   This helped illustrate the conflict of the time – American Culture built around discrimination and limiting the African American inner-city culture.   Sonny was using heroin to feel in control of what is going on around him because in reality, he was not in control what so ever.   His path or ability to get out of the poor inner-city life was closed by the American Culture at the time.   When people aren’t given control over their perceived destiny, people have to do something that gives them the feeling of control, weather real or induced through narcotics....

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