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Role Of Music In Sonny's Blues

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 856 words Published: 5th May 2017

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The story “Sonny’s Blues” is written by James Baldwin in 1846 and raises the problem of the misconception between two brothers. Their conflict grounded on the problem of racial discrimination in the African-American society. Influenced by the oppression, both bothers developed different views on life, which served as a problem for their common understanding. The narrator has adjusted to the white society still feeling the pressure, but not willing to change it. On the contrary to his brother, Sonny tries to find the way out and to state himself a worthy person of approval and respect. Sonny tries to avoid his pain and sufferings with the immersion into Jazz music, resided to his race. Describing Sonny’s lifeline from his brother’s perspective, depicting a fair representation of Sonny’s relationship with music, and evaluating the author’s method for creating a specific frame of mind in readers, it will be possible to create a holistic picture of Sonny’s struggle on the way to salvation.

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The knowledge of Sonny’s life comes only through the narrator. The only one evident point in Sonny’s character is his hope that he can become a musician. His close minded brother, who seems to be the strict father for Sonny, rather than his supporting brother, expresses his disapproval of Sonny’s wish. Suffer the consequences of his criticism Sonny agrees to live with Isabel’s family, only because they have a piano at home. Even though everybody admits that “Sonny was at that piano playing for his life” (p.101), nobody really hears and understands him. When he realizes that his efforts to create something from his music failed and he could not meet the expectations of the family, sadness devours him and he runs away. Later in the story, the brother narrates that Sonny starts to use drugs. Next, police arrests him for it and send to prison. Sonny kicks his drug habit and returns to live with his brother. After so many years and events influenced his life, he still continues to develop himself as a musician.

As a matter of a fact, music plays a very significant role throughout the whole story written by James Baldwin. Basically, it is possible to notice how Sonny is dedicated to music and to jazz in particular. Additionally, the role of music is irreplaceable in defining and describing the major characters, as well as the culture of Harlem as a whole. Seeing Sonny’s eternal eagerness to music, it is reasonable to assume that music is the only drug for Sonny, his only way of expressing his hopes and dulling his pain, incomparable even to his drug addiction. Sonny’s devotion to Jazz is even able to change the upstanding mind of his brother by the end of the story. Comparing to his brother, who is afraid of the disorder and cannot face pain and uncertainty of the way Sonny lives, Sonny has a radically different perception of the world. Due to Sonny’s artistic nature, tenacity and willing to struggle, his brother finally begins to understand not only the value of jazz and blues music, but also himself and his relationship with Sonny. In the club he starts to appreciate Sonny in a way he never did, as a “real musician” (p.107). Rather than trying to make Sonny fit into his world, he is now “in Sonny’s world. Or, rather: his kingdom. Here it was not even a question that his veins bore royal blood” (p.107).

The name of the story is “Sonny’s Blues”, which contradicts with the genre of music, which Sonny is dedicated to. Sonny finds his strengths and motivation in jazz music. Basically, this music genre is based on informal order and format, which gives the musicians a lot of space for genuine expression of their souls. On the other hand, the actual name of the story seems to reflect Sonny’s story of life. As a fact, blues is a music genre, which mostly expresses melancholic feelings, as well as it is infused with deep sadness and tragedy. Consequently, by naming the story “Sonny’s Blues” the author defines Sonny’s life with a genre, which is full of grief and sorrow, disappointments and frustration. The method which the author uses to frame the flow of the story is very representative, and leads the readers to a specific atmosphere and directs them towards a specific frame of mind.

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Creating a complete representation of Sonny’s struggle on the way to salvation, it was essential to unfold the major aspects of Sonny’s story and to describe his relationships with music and its meaning in Sonny’s life. Additionally, by analyzing the name of the story it was possible to assemble the right atmosphere the author was trying to create for the readers. Thus, the author has chosen music, for it is communal function to tell the stories of a community of people. Music evokes feelings in performers and in listeners, helping them to cure from the failure in their lives or to at least feel comfortable in the company of others who are similarly afflicted.


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