Reviewing James Baldwins Sonnys Blues
It is very hard to accept life full of misery and suffering. When there is no light, when darkness covers you with a blanket of confinement, when the hope is almost lost, people start to seek salvation. But it is ultimately painful and difficult to seek real salvation, because often there is not enough light for it. And people take easier ways of alcohol, drugs and crimes. James Baldwin in his story "Sonny's Blues" gives his vision on one of the examples of person's salvation.Postwar period in New-York is characterized by cultural and political revolution.
Thousands of African American soldiers returning to Harlem faced distressing fact - instead of good jobs and opportunities the got only gloomy life in vast urban slums. The ideas of Afro-Americans' equality were still to be born, but the ground for radical political movements and civil rights movement was being laid. The story of narrator's uncle clearly shows the morals of white men. "They was all drunk, and when they seen your father's brother they let out a great whoop and holler and they aimed the car straight at him" (Baldwin, 81). However, some people found suitable jobs and their life became less terrifying, but they didn't escape imprisonment in darkness of the slums.
The whole story narrator is nameless; we don't know his name, only occupation: he is a math's teacher. Baldwin intends to show that this story isn't intimate and personal only for this family, the questions raised are common for all people, and problems of finding salvation, light and darkness, peace and religion, love and imprisonment were common to the African American society of that period. "All they really knew were two darknesses, the darkness of their lives, which was now closing in on them, and the darkness of the movies" (Baldwin, 73). Darkness is observed everywhere. Narrator sees it in general state of life in Harlem, lifeless housing projects, Sonny's addiction to drugs and his life in prison. "I was scared, scared for Sonny. He became real to me again" (Baldwin, 72) - these words represent the relations between two brothers.
When their parents died Sonny's brother failed to take care of him. He let him spoil his life, and he ended as a drug addict. Sonny got lost; he even once said to his brother that he could consider him dead. Narrator gave up, when Sonny entered navy and for many days it was unknown whether he is alive or not.
They didn't communicate at all while Sonny was in prison. The turning point was Grace's death. "And I didn't write Sonny or send him anything for a long time. When I finally did, it was just after my little girl died, and he wrote me back a letter which made me feel like bastard" (Baldwin, 76).
Death of a relative changes all - Sonny's brother immediately wrote him a letter and built new bonds, recreating brother's love. He took Sonny to his home and protected him finally carrying out his mother's request. But he couldn't understand his brother yet.
He was frightened and thought about searching through brother's room. He still saw only darkness in Sonny's soul. But then Sonny invited him to his concert at the nightclub. Narrator finally understood the depth of Sonny's suffering, and believed that music could help Sonny, because he saw that music that was coming out from his little brother's heart released his pain and darkness, was salvation for Sonny. "Sonny's fingers filled the air with life, his life. But that life contained so many others" (Baldwin, 95-96).
He wanted to be free. Sonny wanted to be free in the world of people who accepted their imprisonment in deep dark slums of New York, who accepted racism and poverty. Sonny tried drugs to get freedom, but this brought him to real prison, where he finally received a letter from his brother who unintentionally helped to make first step to salvation.Sonny is a symbol of new era.
He's a fighter of new society who survived the terrors of war and hardships and poverty of postwar period, fought against enemy soldiers and his own demons. He didn't have any answers, but he understood that his music is the only way to overcome his imprisonment. Form his childhood he started to strive for freedom. He was similar with his father both being stubborn, strong and devoted. They desperately conflicted with each other. "He and Sonny hadn't ever got on too well.
And this was partly because Sonny was the apple of his father's eye. It was because he loved Sonny so much and was frightened for him, that he was always fighting with him" (Baldwin , 79). Sonny sacrificed his relations to music and drugs to get free. He tried to escape Harlem entering navy forces, but that brought him no relief. He could sacrifice even his life in order to get salvation. "It's not so much to play.
It's to stand it, to be able to make it at all. On any level. He frowned and smiled: In order to keep from shaking to pieces"(Baldwin, 86). This situation made him tremble; he felt himself shaped and couldn't accept it. Heroin "makes you feel sort of warm andcool at the same time.
And distant. And- and sure. It makes you feel-in control. Sometimes you've got to have that feeling" (Baldwin, 86) Sonny tried to uncover himself as much as possible in order to let his inner darkness, pain and suffering burst from him.
It was not only his grief and agony, but feelings of the whole Afro-American society, their history of torment revealed in the form of blues. Sometimes it was so vitally important, that he could sacrifice anything. "Sometimes you'll do anything to play, even cut your mother's throat. Or your brother's. Or your own."(Baldwin, 92). Sonny couldn't understand what he was during his addiction.
He could feel all pain and suffering of Harlem, but also he could feel love. "He turned back to the window, looking out. "All that hatred down there," he said, "all thathatred and misery and love. It's a wonder it doesn't blow the avenue apart" (Baldwin, 93). His doubtful state tore him apart. Narrator finally understood how hard was for Sonny to fight with himself, trying to overcome drugs, which gave him feeling of freedom, but ruined his life, with his mental and physical imprisonment.
Sonny's brother feels his pain and understands his music.
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