Free Essay

"Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin Critical Analysis

In: Historical Events

Submitted By blaine
Words 841
Pages 4
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. Sonny and his brother had a long commentary discussing their lives and what they had been through; coming to the topic of suffering from oppression and economical stress. Talking about dealing with and absorbing the suffering, Sonny’s brother questions the ability to not suffer in their lives, spawning Sonny’s response, “I believe not…but that’s never stopped anyone from trying…has it?” (Baldwin 59) This clearly exposes Sonny’s stance on the issue of escaping society’s oppression of the African American Culture. Sonny was mixing drugs and music to create a feeling of actual pleasure, even accomplishment that he was doing something in spite of the brutal limits placed on his life and culture. When all normal routes and options to achieve this feeling are blocked or wiped away, some people can only see certain directions to gravitate towards to escape, for Sonny, it was music and the drugs that encircled it, to achieve his feeling of ecstasy. When a culture is completely cut off from reaching social levels in the society it belongs to or even receiving similar respect as the rest of the society, people of the oppressed culture still need the feeling of belonging to something greater than what they are actually being treated like. Sonny explains this very vividly showing the role of drugs as the catalyst of this feeling; “…When I was most out of the world, I felt that I was in it, that I was with it, really, and I could play or didn’t have to play, it just came out of me, it was there.” Sonny was only using heroin and performing music to escape his life of oppression by society. Sonny’s brother escaped the oppression by joining the Army and earned an education to teach in his home neighborhood of Harlem, Sonny’s only route he could find was music. The drugs were just a tool they used to make themselves feel in control of their situations, which was an excuse to be numb to the actual feelings of oppression and brutality that society was delivering on their doorsteps every day. The oppression of the African American Culture of the 1950’s baby-booming revolution was unmistakable by today’s pupils. The invisible ceilings that kept inner-city dwellers of housing projects at the bottom of society was brutally displayed and exposed in James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues.” It is amazing Sonny and his people found the will to live and go on with life. The demonstration of cause and effect of oppression and drug use among poor African Americans in the slums of New York was not too far off from some similar problems faced in today’s Inner-City America. Sonny never wanted to die, at least, by the hand of his oppressors, but rather, escape and feel as though he had the reigns to his life and feel he actually could go and do what he wanted, knowing full well sober, that was next to impossible.

Similar Documents

Premium Essay

Human Emition vs. Ambiguity and Aesthetics

...“Words and Music: Narrative Ambiguity in ‘Sonny’s Blues,” by Keith Byerman is a critical analysis of the narrator’s discourse in “Sonny’s Blue.” Byerman argues that the use of language necessarily proves limitations. Byerman states that a “resolution can be accomplished” 1 when the message is “received or code is decipher in most case the message is withheld in some manner-through deception, innocence, or ignorance until a key moment in the narrative.” He supports this argument by pointing out how inconsistent or even misreading the narrator is, because of his incapability to read the surrounding situation of Sonny. Byerman argues that the narrator is “caught in the prison house of language.” 1 This may come from a philosophical stand point rather than normal human emotions and reactions to the view point of family members, as well as an age difference that can create a communication chaos., As the narrator sits on the train reading the paper and seeing that Sonny is in trouble. It’s harmful to his thoughts, that the narrator references his emotions to ice. While Byerman stats that this is the “narrator’s immediate action is to refract his emotion through this metaphor.” While James Baldwin uses metaphors throughout “Sonny’s Blue’s,” this is not an issue with language or misreading’s on the narrator’s part. The narrator is more afraid that the reality of his brother is addicted to drugs and that it has gotten him into trouble. For this to happen to an immediate......

Words: 609 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

James Baldwin

...of the modern society. In my opinion the combination of these two issues (fear and ignorance) has created what is a scourge called racism. James Baldwin was a wise and prominent writer who fought against these issues through communication by either writing books or speaking at memorable events. Born in 1924 in New York and died in France in 1987, James Baldwin occupies a unique place in American letters. He is the epitome of the writer that links art to commitment, and can be found alongside Martin Luther King, Marlon Brando, Harry Belafonte and Charlton Heston at the civil rights march in 1963 at Washington. The analysis of James Baldwin was somewhat aporetic, because on one hand we could quote him saying “Every white person in this country-and I do not care what he or she says-knows one thing. They may not know, as they put, "what I want”, but they know they would not like to be black here. If they know that, then they know everything they need to know, and whatever else they say is a lie.” , which is categorical and brutal in tone. Yet on the other hand, Baldwin always tried to put himself in the place of others by attempting to understand their behavior and their motivation. In the end, we can say that he has virtually written more about the moods of whites than those of blacks. This is obviously the faith that animates Baldwin. First of all, he has faith in America, because according to him, only Western nations with both power and experience will be capable of......

Words: 1100 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

Assignments

...Name Professor Class Date Unit 3: Values and Worldviews- A Raisin in the Sun Essay Structure Template Introduction Lawrence, D.H. The Rocking Horse winner. 1st English Edition. Harper Collins Canada According to the book of “The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D.H. Lawrence” talks about a young boy named Paul. Thus, Paul acknowledges that there is never sufficient money in his folks; he goes out to search for money through luck. Therefore, he notices that if he rides his rocking horse speedy enough, he will some way “discover” the label of the captivating horse in the subsequent race. Among the subtopics derived from this book do include of; lust for money, lack as well as the obsession for material items. BGS: Broad general statement The book mainly describes lack as the general topic because it is seen that Paul is normally lucky in the” Rocking-Horse Winner”. Thus, to be triumphant in the community Paul as well his mother dwells in; Paul wishes to have a definite quantity of luck to survive presently and after. Subtopics 1. Lust for money: the paper tries to augment on how Paul’s mother was soo obsessed with the money issues. 2. Lack: the paper will augment more concerning how lucky Paul was when it came to the “Rocking-Horse Winner”. 3. Obsession for material Items: the paper augments on how Paul’s mother is obsessed with material wealth as well as items. Thesis Regarding the......

Words: 3980 - Pages: 16

Free Essay

Every Encounter Matters

...and – to a larger extent – also themselves. The issues explored in “Recitatif” resonate with many readers on many different levels and, in effect, much has been written and discussed about it. This is largely due to the fact that Morrison has left a lot open to the reader for interpretation. “Revised Memories and Colliding Identities: Absence and Presence in Morrison’s ‘Recitatif’ and Viramontes’s ‘Tears on My Pillow’” by Helane Adams Androne is a very focused critical piece that argues that both central characters have suffer from strained relationships. "Transfiguring Aesthetics: Conflation, Identity Denial, and Transference in “Passing Texts” of Black Narrative" by Tomeiko Ashford and "Toni Morrison and the Burden of the Passing Narrative" by Juda Burnett are both well-written reviews that examine the racial identities of the characters and provide various explanations how the race component affects the story. Last but not least, "Watchers Watching Watchers: Positioning Characters and Readers in Baldwin's 'Sonny's...

Words: 2360 - Pages: 10

Free Essay

Book Discussion

...    Life  Sciences  South  163   Monday/Wednesday/Friday   9:30  am  –  10:20  am   January  9,  2013  –  May  10,  2013   Course  Description   In  this  class,  we  will  learn  about  the  basic  conventions  and  terms  used  to  understand  and  discuss  the   three  major  genres  of  literature:  fiction,  poetry,  and  drama.  This  class  will  help  you  understand  the   sometimes  baffling  world  of  literature,  and  is  intended  to  provide  the  general  student  with  basic   experience  in  literary  analysis.  Additionally,  I  hope  this  class  will  lead  you  to  a  lifelong  appreciation  for   (and  engagement  with)  reading  literature.   Although  this  class  features  extensive  reading  and  writing,  it  is  not  necessary  for  you  to  be  a  bookworm   or  a  writing  superstar  to  succeed  in  this  class  –  if  you  are  willing  to  put  in  the  time  and  effort  to  study,   faithfully  attend  class,  keep  up  on  your  reading  and  writing  assignments  and  engage  in  our  discussions ......

Words: 4621 - Pages: 19

Free Essay

Art and Story Proceedings 2004

...Proceeding for the School of Visual Arts Eighteenth Annual National Conference on Liberal Arts and the Education of Artists: Art and Story CONTENTS SECTION ONE: Marcel’s Studio Visit with Elstir……………………………………………………….. David Carrier SECTION TWO: Film and Video Narrative Brief Narrative on Film-The Case of John Updike……………………………………. Thomas P. Adler With a Pen of Light …………………………………………………………………… Michael Fink Media and the Message: Does Media Shape or Serve the Story: Visual Storytelling and New Media ……………………………………………………. June Bisantz Evans Visual Literacy: The Language of Cultural Signifiers…………………………………. Tammy Knipp SECTION THREE: Narrative and Fine Art Beyond Illustration: Visual Narrative Strategies in Picasso’s Celestina Prints………… Susan J. Baker and William Novak Narrative, Allegory, and Commentary in Emil Nolde’s Legend: St. Mary of Egypt…… William B. Sieger A Narrative of Belonging: The Art of Beauford Delaney and Glenn Ligon…………… Catherine St. John Art and Narrative Under the Third Reich ……………………………………………… Ashley Labrie 28 15 1 22 25 27 36 43 51 Hopper Stories in an Imaginary Museum……………………………………………. Joseph Stanton SECTION FOUR: Photography and Narrative Black & White: Two Worlds/Two Distinct Stories……………………………………….. Elaine A. King Relinquishing His Own Story: Abandonment and Appropriation in the Edward Weston Narrative………………………………………………………………………….. David Peeler Narrative Stretegies in the Worlds of Jean Le Gac and Sophe Calle…………………….. Stefanie......

Words: 117240 - Pages: 469

Free Essay

Licence

...LICENCE LANGUES, LITTÉRATURES ET CULTURES ÉTRANGÈRES ET RÉGIONALES SPÉCIALITÉ ANGLAIS DESCRIPTIF DES ENSEIGNEMENTS Année universitaire 2014-2015 Page 1 SOMMAIRE L1—PREMIERE ANNÉE SEMESTRE 1 CULTURE DES PAYS ANGLOPHONES 1 E11 AN5 (6 ECTS) LANGUE 1 E12 AN5 (4 ECTS) CIVILISATION 1 E13 AN5 (4 ECTS) VERSION 1 ET LITTÉRATURE AMÉRICAINE 1 E14 AN5 (4 ECTS) PROJET PROFESSIONNEL PERSONNALISÉ (P.P.P.) E1P AN5 (1 ECTS) 5 5 6 8 10 13 SEMESTRE 2 CULTURE DES PAYS ANGLOPHONES 2 E21 AN5 (5 ECTS) LANGUE 2 E22 AN5 (4 ECTS) LITTÉRATURE BRITANNIQUE 2 E 23 AN5 (4 ECTS) CIVILISATION BRITANNIQUE 2 ET TRADUCTION (VERSION) 2 E24 AN5 (5 ECTS) PROJET PROFESSIONNEL PERSONNALISÉ (P.P.P.) E2P AN5 (1 ECTS) 14 15 17 18 20 2 L2—DEUXIEME ANNÉE SEMESTRE 3 LANGUE 3 E31 AN5 (6 ECTS) CIVILISATION AMÉRICAINE 3 E32 AN5 (5 ETCS) LITTÉRATURE BRITANNIQUE 3 E33 AN5 (5 ECTS) TRADUCTION (VERSION) 3 ET PRISE DE PAROLE EN CONTINU 3 E34 AN5 (6 ECTS) PREPROFESSIONNALISATION : MÉTIERS DE L’ENSEIGNEMENT DES LANGUES VIVANTES ÉTRANGÈRES ET RÉGIONALES 3 21 21 23 24 26 29 E3PF12L5 (6 ECTS) SEMESTRE 4 LANGUE 4 E41 AN5 (5 ECTS) CIVILISATION BRITANNIQUE 4 E42 AN5 (6 ECTS) LITTÉRATURE AMÉRICAINE 4 E43 AN5 (5 ECTS) TRADUCTION (VERSION) 4 ET PRISE DE PAROLE EN CONTINU 4 E44 AN5 (6 ECTS) PREPROFESSIONNALISATION : MÉTIERS DE L’ENSEIGNEMENT DES LANGUES VIVANTES ÉTRANGÈRES ET RÉGIONALES 4 30 32 34 36 39 E4PF12L5 (6......

Words: 25678 - Pages: 103