Sonny S Blue S Theme

Pages: 5 (1300 words) Published: February 24, 2015

Sonny’s Blues
Explanation of Theme
The Inevitability of Suffering

Clyde Farmer
Eng. 102

The Inevitability of Suffering
In the story Sonny’s Blues, James Baldwin uses many themes for the reader to explore from art, to imprisonment to being safe and redemption. The over arching theme however seems to be suffering which will be the focus of this essay. Suffering is a constant presence in "Sonny's Blues" starting from Sonny's drug addiction to the death of the narrator's daughter to the brutal murder of the narrator's uncle, suffering is a constant presence in their environment. Suffering is, as Sonny so strongly argues, inescapable. This suffering is symbolized throughout the story by darkness, which constantly revolves around the lives of the narrator's family and community, it is something that they are born to be burdened with and can not escape. Sonny explains that his heroin usage is an attempt to cope with suffering that would otherwise paralyze him. Baldwin uses this story to establish this theme and suggest to the reader that suffering is inevitable no one is safe and one should understand that there is no way to avoid it in life. One way to show this theme is through the development of Sonny and the narrator’s character’s that are often trapped in the darkness that roared outside. The unnamed Narrator who is relatively well off between the two siblings struggles to understand his suicidal yet talented brother Sonny. Although suffering causes so much pain in each of the characters lives it is essential for both art and redemption. Sonny comments on how much suffering the revival singer must have had to go through in order to sing so beautifully. One can imagine that Sonny's music comes from similarly dark experiences however, suffering and darkness, if used creatively can inspire works of beauty. Suffering also confers the ability to understand and feel true compassion for others, which is essential for redemption. An example of

The Inevitability of Suffering
this is that it isn't until the painful death of the narrator’s daughter that the narrator himself begins his journey that leads to his salvation and redemption. Many people like to feel safe people try to protect themselves as well as their loved ones, to make them feel safe as well. The idea conveyed about safety in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues is that there is no such thing and suffering is inevitable at some point in life. The narrator of this story had thought that his brother Sonny was safe or at least that’s what the narrator made himself believe "I told myself that Sonny was wild, but he wasn't crazy and he'd always been a good boy, he hadn't ever turned hard or evil or disrespectful, the way kids can, so quick, especially in Harlem. I didn't want to believe that I'd ever see my brother going down, coming to nothing, all that light in his face gone out, in the condition I'd already seen so many others" (Mays, 2014,p74). The reality is that Sonny hadn't been safe from drugs, or the streets, or any of the things his brother had been sure he was immune to he had been arrested for using and selling heroin. Sonny's friend thought the same thing as Sonny's brother had. "I thought Sonny was a smart boy too smart to get hung'" (Mays, 2014, p76) but they were both wrong it had been Sonny's brother's responsibility to look out for Sonny from the time Sonny was born. "When he started to walk, he walked from our mother straight to me. I caught him just before he fell when he took the first steps he ever took in this world" (Mays, 2014,p79). The narrator of the story is Sonny's big brother, so he feels responsible for him he reassures his mother that he won’t let anything happen to Sonny but he actually fails at keeping this promise. Sonny leaves and gets into trouble and maybe the narrator felt that if he couldn't keep his brother safe, then he would protect himself and his family by not contacting Sonny while...

Bibliography: Mays, K. (2014). The Norton Introduction to Literature (11th ed., p). New York: w.w. Norton&CO.
Sonny’s Blues Themes. (n.d.). Retrieved February 4, 2015, from
What is Baldwin saying about suffering in "Sonny 's Blues?" - Homework Help - (n.d.). Retrieved February 4, 2015, from
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