Analysis of Sonny's Blues Essay_ Suffering.docx - Odedina 1...

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Odedina 1 Brandon Odedina Professor Q. Glapion ENG 244-09 13 October 2019 Anguish in Sonny’s Blues In James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” suffering is a recurring theme throughout the story. Sonny is in pain dealing with his drug addiction, feeling trapped and alone in Harlem, and struggling for his older brother’s acceptance of him wanting to be a musician. Sonny’s unnamed older brother, also the narrator of the story, feels responsible for his brother’s imprisonment and drug addiction, experiences the pain of his daughter’s death and struggles to accept his brother’s life choices. Both characters also have to deal with living in Harlem which is known for its dark and violent. Baldwin shows multiple forms of suffering and conflicts with its characters in order to highlight how suffering can affect a person for better or for worse. The story also demonstrates that there are non-harmful and non-life degrading ways to cope with these problems. The setting of “Sonny's Blues” is in 1950s Harlem, New York. A time where segregation and racism towards black Americans was widely prominent and within a neighborhood where black people lived lives of drug abuse, violence, and racial oppression. These items relate to the suffering that black people endured during the 1950s and Baldwin highlights each of them with the story’s multiple characters. This negative and dark atmosphere is made clear by the narrator’s anxieties when teaching Odedina 2
his students in the beginning of the story: “ These boys, now, were living as we’d been living then, they were growing up with a rush and their heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities.” (18) The death of the narrator’s uncle is one example of suffering that black American’s endured and is the cause of the narrator’s father’s greatest pain. As told by the narrator’s and Sonny’s mother, they had an uncle who was killed when, while walking home from a concert with the narrator’s father, a car of drunk racists hit him and ran him over. As expected, this caused the father great pain and sadness. So much that he refused to let his sons know that they even had an uncle. This is when he started to grow a grudge towards white men for what some of them did to his brother: “Till the day

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