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Sonny’s Blues Essay

Sonny’s Blues starts off by not informing the reader much about the characters which will be presented in the story. However, the author does have an interesting way of beginning the story, for after reading the first two opening lines: “I read it in the paper, in the subway, on my way to work. I read it, and I couldn’t believe it, and I read it again”, it enables readers to continue on with the story, so to help them understand the significance of those two lines and why the author makes them sound so dramatic. James Baldwin wrote this story so that it showed two opposite lives of the main characters and their own perspectives on life itself. This is an excellent example of how readers can relate to the characters. Baldwin’s techniques in writing this story are so magnificent that it almost appears to be a biography about an actual person. Perhaps it is, or maybe the whole story is a fact about life that might later be turned into a biography for a certain individual.

This essay will discuss the setting as well as the theme(s) of the short story Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin. The essay will also include, the subject of tone(s). SETTING. The setting is quite an important issue when it comes to writing any story. The setting that an author chooses has to be linked to the theme or the tone that is presented. For example: when writing about a horror story, it would be a wise choice for the author to take the reader to an abandoned area where the only thing that lights up the dark skies would be the lightning of a storm. Now if we would take a minute now and think of the scenery of Harlem, New York, a poor community would come to mind, or as some say; the ghetto. Throughout the whole story, the setting takes place in New York the author explains the two completely different lives of two brothers who both grew up in Harlem.

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We basically learn that growing up in the ghetto is not easy at all. And he’d always been a good boy, he hadn’t ever turned hard or evil or disrespectful, the way kid can, so quick, so quick, especially in Harlem This quote refers to Sonny, but we also learn what kids become after growing up in Harlem. The author also focuses on the poorer parts of New York, such as the subway, taxis, bars, etc. We also come across a character who was one of Sonny’s friends and who begs for money and has nowhere to stay. ? And now, even though he was a grown-up man, he still hung around that block, still spent hours on the street corners, was always high and raggy. I used to run into him from time to time and he’d often workaround to asking me for a quarter of fifty cents.? The author also takes the reader on a journey to a different part of New York which is not mentioned often in the story. ? So we drove along, between the green park and the stony lifeless elegance of hotels and apartment buildings, towards the vivid, killing streets of our childhood?

We automatically learn from this quote that the two brothers were not raised in a rich and safe environment, but the opposite. Safe! ?my father grunted, whenever Mama suggested trying to move to a neighborhood which might be safer for children. Safe, hell! Ain’t no place safe for kids, nor nobody. Although Sonny’s brother is an algebra teacher in a high school and has a family of his own, he doesn’t have the luxury that he maybe would like to have. ? We live in a housing project. It hasn’t been up long. A few days after it was up it seemed uninhabitable new, now, of course, it?s already rundown. It looks like a parody of the good, clean, faceless life – God knows the people who live in it do their best to make it a parody.

The beat–looking grass lying around isn’t enough to make their lives a green, the hedges will never hold out the streets, and they know it. The big window fool no one, they aren?t big enough to make space out of no space …the playground is most popular with the children who don’t play at jacks or skip rope, or roller skate, or swing, and they can be found in it after dark? Now that we know a little about the setting, it’s easier to distinguish the tone of the story. Obviously, it isn’t a very happy one for everything described in this story is quite depressing. So by knowing this, we may say that the tone is filled with the emotion of sadness as well as some degree of depression.

THEME. Readers can learn much after reading a story like Sonny’s Blues. The themes of the story have much to do with courage, hope, survival, and brotherhood. Sonny’s brother is seven years older than him, giving him more responsibility, and their mother always told the older brother to take care of Sonny because she wouldn’t be around for much longer to do it herself? You got to hold on to your brother…and don’t let him fall, no matter what it looks like is happening to him and no matter how evil you get with him. You going to be evil with him many a time….? And he replied? Don’t you worry, I won’t forget. I won’t let anything happen to Sonny? However, things didn’t end up the way it was promised. Sometimes that’s just the way life goes, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The narrator ended up being an algebra teacher, and Sonny, a heroin addict who always wanted to be a musician.

The narrator didn’t respect his brother’s decision with his life so he just left him alone with no sign of support or love for his brother. One may say he did a selfish act to leave his younger brother out there by himself to survive with no contact for a long time. So Sonny, still a young man at the time, was on his own. However, after the narrator found out that his brother is a heroin addict and was locked up, it made him wonder if he had anything to do with it. He felt guilty now that he hasn’t been there for his brother when he needed help. So he begins to show interest in his brother’s life the way he should of from the beginning. This made Sonny really happy. Family should always be there to help and support one another. Members of the family should always guide one onto the right path in life. Unfortunately, Sonny took the wrong path in life and he had to pay the price. Luckily, the story had a happy ending once the two brothers were joined together again.

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Sonny's Blues Essay. (2021, Mar 28). Retrieved June 24, 2021, from