Critical response essay

Critical response essay

James Baldwin the author of Sonny’s Blues was brought up in the same environment just like the characters in the short story. He encountered similar difficulties being encountered by most of the boys in Harlem. Sonny’s Blues focuses on his younger brother Sonny who has an outstanding talent in music. Sonny’s Blues defines either the enormous soreness endured by Sonny or the amazing music he has developed. The story raises questions on if the pain Sonny is exposed to will be the result for his success in the music industry. In the short story, Sonny’s Blues the author emphasizes more on the black community than he does on Sonny. In the twentieth century, Black Americans used the linguistic codes as a way of expression whereby music became an interpersonal phrase for people who lacked a specific mode of communication. Sonny who was based on jazz music was trying to expose what was underneath through music. Sonny is in a position to determine his new figure of personal and spiritual elucidation through his drug addiction and his exceptional talent in music. The short story Sonny’s blues can be analyzed as follows.

The story begins as the narrator goes through a newspaper, which had the information about drug aid of which Sonny his younger brother is accused. He tries to understand the reason for Sonny’s addiction to heroin while Sonny was still in jail. From his flashbacks, the narrator puts it clearly that that had the responsibility to take care of his younger brother as he was ordered by his deceased mother and it was his duty to make sure that Sonny was released from jail. Sonny lives with his brother in Harlem after he was released from jail. While the narrator was at war Sonny had to live with his brothers fiancée Isabel’s family who are not familiarized with his passion for music and his way of life. Consequently, Sonny moves to live in New York where he survived as a musician and a drug addict. It is through the narrator’s flashbacks that the two brothers reconcile even though he was threatened by Sonny’s heroin addiction and his passion for music. It is until when Sonny invites his elder brother to a nightclub and witnesses Sonny perform that he gets the full glimpse of Sonny’s efforts in music and the effects it has on his audience.

The narrator and Sonny lived in Harlem, which was not safe for their growth as children. As much as his father tried to move his family to a better place, his efforts were brought down by the tragic death of his brothers, which was caused by Southern Whites. The narrator who is a high school teacher finds his students more like him and Sonny. They have a potential in life but it is endangered by the exposure to and the insecurity in that society. As a result, he concludes that most of his students may be less fortunate as compared to him due to the encounters they have in the ghetto. The author in his short story talks about how joining the military could improve ones life. This is reflected when Sonny has the passion to join the army as it would give him a better life and he would be more secure. It is also evident that it was through him joining the army he ended up being an algebra teacher and a useful member of the middle class society.

Jazz music demonstrates division among the blacks. This division found in the black community is by the middle class persons who are more confident to make their living conditions better and are ready to merge with the white community. The middle class in the short story can be represented by the narrator whereas the other class can be represented by Sonny who is not ready to change his status. This is because they believe that if severe progression does not occur they will not be able to get what the whites have. This is illustrated when Sonny informs the narrator that he wants to be a musician, which proves to be a quite tricky choice for him. A conflict arises between Sony and his elder brother who believes in making sacrifices to live a better life and Sonny who believes in following his dreams and not making sacrifices for his success. The narrator tries to understand the life Sonny led in Bohemian during their conversation. This is when he sees how Sonny was affected by the arrest of a street musician. Sonny sees that his elder brother does no understand the fact that you ought not to live by other persons understanding of success as it deprives ones freedom. A black American child growing in the white society exposes the child to either a hard life or even chance to transform it to a better one through art.

In the conversation between Sonny and the narrator, it brings out the difference of the people who can surrender their freedom for safety and those whom demand for their rights regardless of its repercussions. This is evident when we see Sonny supporting the revolutionized jazz music unlike his brother who is not even aware of the changing times. Jazz music illustrates the self and philosophical difference of the narrator and Sonny. The narrator plays safe unlike his younger brother who is ready to do anything to demand for his freedom and he does that by following his musical talent. The short story Sonny’s Blues makes people realize how people endure pains and hardships to achieve their goals while others do not want to face the reality for their own safety. This is exhibited by the narrator who later is convinced to accept Sonny as he is. It is through the narrator that we get to understand Sonny who is more of a father to Sonny than a brother. He describes him as a person who tries to make people understand him for who he is by following his music aspirations. Sonny views the world differently whereby he is ready to take life as it is unlike the narrator who wants to run away from the reality. From the story, we can comprehend that Sonny is the person who have changed yet we do not see him struggle so much to accept the change. On contrary, the narrator takes a long time when getting what Sonny was trying to put across. The narrator acknowledges that he started appreciating the pain Sonny endured when his daughter passed on. He did that by listening to Sonny’s music of which he once despised. It was a song, which eased the listeners’ pain and soreness.

Subjectively, in the short story Sonny’s  blues the narrator and the character Sonny exhibits two different personalities The narrator is in a position make a sacrifice of his freedom for his safety unlike his younger brother Sonny who endures pain and sufferings so that he can achieve his goals and make a life from his music talent. Despite the fact that the narrator live in a middle class society he is deprived of his freedom where his living standards are dictated by the white society. On contrary, Sonny will not stop at anything to forego his dream career of jazz music even after being in jail for the same reason. He is ready to face rejection in the society and sufferings that comes with it and have the freedom to live his life. Later on, the narrator and Sonny come to an agreement after Sonny explains to him of what he thinks about the world and how to live ones life.

From the story, music has been defined as a way of communicating one feelings and the impact it has on others. By listening to music, the narrator recalls the tragedies that have befallen him such as her deceased parents and his daughter who passed on. This helps the narrator understand Sonny and the people of his kind better. Towards the end of the story, a bible verse have been quoted where God promises the Israelite s that they will suffer no more and the sufferings will be inflicted on their enemies. The bible quote has been used to give Sonny and his brother hope that their sufferings had ended.

In the short story Sonny’s blues, the narrator and the character Sonny are depicted as brothers. The narrator who was dutiful according to his parents was given the responsibility to take good care of Sonny his younger brother before their mother died. It was the narrators’ duty as the eldest sibling to ensure that his younger brother did what was acceptable in the society. The narrator makes an effort to make Sonny change from what he is to a person who can fit in their white society. The narrator discourages Sonny from his heroin addiction and music talent even when it was all in vain. It is depicted from the story that it is the elder sibling’s duty to ensure the younger ones follow the traditions of a given society. In addition, as the elder brother he got Sonny from jail and took him to Isabella’s home where he grew up before fleeing away. This illustrates that the elder sibling should get a person to take care of their younger siblings in their absence. It is also the elder sibling’s duty to ensure that they do not assume bad habits. From Sonny’s blues the narrator helps his brother in overcoming his habit of drug addiction. It is a duty also for all elder siblings to listen to the young ones opinions, as at times they may be right. The narrator was able to listen to his brother and tried to understand him.

In conclusion, the short story Sonny blues is an inspirational book. It generally talks about discrimination and segregation between the blacks and the whites. This is whereby some of the blacks are not willing to stand for their rights, as they are afraid of what may happen to them. This is illustrated by the narrator who lives in the middle class society .People of his kind are described as persons who given a chance can be assimilated in the whites society. On contrary, Sonny is a character in the story that represents the other group of people who are willing to live their dream no matter what it takes. Sonny follows his music dream despite the fact that they were despised in the society.


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