Sonnys Blues Darkness Essay

'); doc.close(); function init(b, config) { b.addVar({ 'abTests[0][testName]': 'cssJsInjectionInlineLinkColor', 'abTests[0][bucketValue]': 3, 'abTests[1][testName]': 'indexUniversalWrapper', 'abTests[1][bucketValue]': 0, 'abTests[2][testName]': 'videoRangeToPlay', 'abTests[2][bucketValue]': 1, 'abTests[3][testName]': 'videoControls', 'abTests[3][bucketValue]': 1, 'abTests[4][testName]': 'cssJsInjection', 'abTests[4][bucketValue]': 0, 'ptax': 'tho_short-stories', 'tax0': 'tho', 'tax1': 'tho_humanities', 'tax2': 'tho_literature', 'tax3': 'tho_short-stories', 'tax4': '', 'templateId': '65', 'templateName': 'flexTemplate', 'templateView': 'PERSONAL_COMPUTER', 'tmog': 'g16212ebb7b169702d31302d31342d312d31322d311bf30', 'mint': 'g16212ebb7b169702d31302d31342d312d31322d311bf30', 'idstamp': 'g16212ebb7b169702d31302d31342d312d31322d311bf30', 'dataCenter': 'us-east-1', 'serverName': 'ip-10-14-1-12-1', 'serverVersion': '2.40.7', 'resourceVersion': '2.40.7', 'cc': 'UA', 'city': '', 'lat': '50.45', 'lon': '30.523', 'rg': '', 'clientTimestamp': new Date().getTime(), 'globeTimestamp': 1520735860657, 'referrer': document.referrer, 'sessionPc': '1', 'userAgent[familyName]': 'IE', 'userAgent[versionMajor]': '11', 'userAgent[versionMinor]': '0', 'userAgent[osName]': 'Windows 7', 'userAgent[osVersion]': '6.1', 'userAgent[mobile]': 'false', 'userAgent[raw]': 'Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; Trident/7.0; rv:11.0) like Gecko' }); b.init({ beacon_url: 'https://rd.about.com/boomerang/reference', user_ip: '178.159.37.71', site_domain: 'thoughtco.com', BW: { enable: false }, DFPTiming: {} }); } if (document.addEventListener) { document.addEventListener("onBoomerangLoaded", function(e) { // e.detail.BOOMR is a reference to the BOOMR global object init(e.detail.BOOMR); }); } else if (document.attachEvent) { // IE 6, 7, 8 we use onPropertyChange and look for propertyName === "onBoomerangLoaded" document.attachEvent("onpropertychange", function(e) { if (!e) e=event; if (e.propertyName === "onBoomerangLoaded") { // e.detail.BOOMR is a reference to the BOOMR global object init(e.detail.BOOMR); } }); } })();(function() { var article = document.getElementById('article_1-0'); if (article && !article.gtmPageView) { article.gtmPageView = {"description":"James Baldwin's short story "Sonny's Blues" examines darkness, light, jazz, and race in 20th-century America in the tale of two brothers.","errorType":"","authorId":"117724","updateDate":"2017-11-03","contentGroup":"Articles","documentId":2990467,"lastEditingAuthorId":"117724","lastEditingUserId":"148131592038192","characterCount":5623,"templateId":"65","socialTitle":"What Is the Story and Meaning of \'Sonny\'s Blues\'?","title":"Analysis of \'Sonny\'s Blues\' by James Baldwin" || document.title || '',"fullUrl":"https://www.thoughtco.com/analysis-sonnys-blues-by-james-baldwin-2990467" + location.hash,"experienceType":"single page","currentPageOrdinal":"","previousPageOrdinal":"","entryType":"direct","pageviewType":"standard","templateVariation":"","publishDate":"2014-02-19","numOfImages":1,"numOfPages":1,"numOfArticleWords":"","numOfInlineLinks":"","excludeFromComscore":false,"socialImage":"https://fthmb.tqn.com/TFDSjdUtWNYIkMpCrq2beWoLi44=/735x0/3241272-56a868e35f9b58b7d0f28274.jpg","numOfMapLabels":"","isErrorPage":false,"instartLogicDelivered":0,"internalSessionId":"g16212ebb7b169702d31302d31342d312d31322d311bf30","internalRequestId":"g16212ebb7b169702d31302d31342d312d31322d311bf30","taxonomyNodes":[[{"documentId":4122478,"shortName":"ThoughtCo"},{"documentId":4133358,"shortName":"Humanities"},{"documentId":4133251,"shortName":"Literature"},{"documentId":4133217,"shortName":"Short Stories"}]],"isCommerceDocument":false,"experienceTypeName":""}; } }()); (function() { Mntl.utilities.readyAndDeferred(function($container){ var $masonryInstance = $('#masonry-list1_1-0'); if ($masonryInstance.data('no-js')) return; Mntl.MasonryList.init($container, $masonryInstance, {stretch: '.card__img, .card--no-image .card__content'}); }); })();(function() { Mntl.utilities.readyAndDeferred(function($container){ var $masonryInstance = $('#masonry-list2_1-0'); if ($masonryInstance.data('no-js')) return; Mntl.MasonryList.init($container, $masonryInstance, {stretch: '.card__img, .card--no-image .card__content'}); }); })();

Light and Darkness in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues

  • :: 1 Works Cited
  • Length: 1080 words (3.1 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - More ↓
Light and Darkness in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues


In James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues" the symbolic motif of light and darkness illustrates the painful nature of reality the two characters face as well as the power gained through it. The darkness represents the actuality of life on the streets of the community of Harlem, where there is little escape from the reality of drugs and crime. The persistent nature of the streets lures adolescents to use drugs as a means of escaping the darkness of their lives. The main character, Sonny, a struggling jazz musician, finds himself addicted to heroin as a way of unleashing the creativity and artistic ability that lies within him. While using music as a way of creating a sort of structure in his life, Sonny attempts to step into the light, a life without drugs. The contrasting images of light and darkness, which serve as truth and reality, are used to depict the struggle between Sonny and the narrator in James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues."

The opening paragraph of the story contains a metaphorical passage: "I stared at it in the swinging light of the subway car, and in the faces and bodies of the people, and in my own face, trapped in the darkness which roared outside"(349). This reference is significant because it is a contrast to the dismal society that the narrator and his brother Sonny live in. The darkness is the portrayal of the community of Harlem that is trapped, in their surroundings by physical, economic, and social barriers. The obvious nature of darkness has overcome the occupants of the Harlem community. The narrator, an algebra teacher, observes a depressing similarity between his students and his brother, Sonny. This is true because the narrator is fearful for his students falling into a life of crime and drugs, as did his brother. The narrator notes that the cruel realities of the streets have taken away the possible light from the lives of his brother and his students. The narrator makes an insightful connection between the darkness that Sonny faced and the darkness that the young boys are presently facing. This is illustrated in the following quote:

"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.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Light and Darkness in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues." 123HelpMe.com. 10 Mar 2018
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=19994>.

LengthColor Rating 
Darkness and Light in Sonny’s Blues, by James Baldwin Essay example - In “Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin”, the theme darkness and light appear throughout the story. The narrator's perspective of the Harlem is rough and shady due to his ability to accept new ideas and gestures. In the opeining introduction, the Narrator introduces darkness by comparing children to darkness by saying “All they really knew were two darknesses, the darkness of their lives, which was now closing in on them, and the darkness of the movies, which had blinded them to that other darkness” (Baldwin, James)....   [tags: jazz music, jail, harlem]
:: 1 Works Cited
525 words
(1.5 pages)
Good Essays[preview]
Essay about Symbolism in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues - Symbolism in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues Missing Works Cited Several passages found throughout "Sonny's Blues" indicate that as a whole, the neighborhood of Harlem is in the turmoil of a battle between good and evil. The narrator describes Sonny's close encounters with the evil manifested in drugs and crime, as well as his assertive attempts at distancing himself from the darker side. The streets and communities of Harlem are described as being a harsh environment which claims the lives of many who have struggled against the constant enticement of emotional escape through drugs, and financial escape through crime....   [tags: James Baldwin Sonny's Blues]1244 words
(3.6 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
The Presence of Darkness in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues Essay - The Presence of Darkness in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues In the story Sonny's Blues the author, James Baldwin, uses the image of darkness quite frequently. He uses it first when the older brother (main character) talks about his younger brother Sonny. He says that when Sonny was younger his face was bright and open. He said that he didn't want to believe that he would ever see his "brother going down, coming to nothing, all that light in his face gone out." Meaning he had gone from good (clean and innocent) to bad ( giving into drugs like so many of the other young people)....   [tags: Sonny's Blues Essays]
:: 1 Works Cited
808 words
(2.3 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
The Symbolic Use of Light and Dark in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues Essay - The Symbolic Use of Light and Dark in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues In James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues" a pair of brothers try to make sense of the urban decay that surrounds and fills them. This quest to puzzle out the truth of the shadows within their hearts and on the streets takes on a great importance. Baldwin meets his audience at a halfway mark: Sonny has already fallen into drug use, and is now trying to return to a clean life with his brother's aid. The narrator must first attempt to understand and make peace with his brother's drug use before he can extend his help and heart to him....   [tags: Sonny Blues Essays]
:: 1 Works Cited
2223 words
(6.4 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
The Light and Darkness of Suffering Depicted in Sonny's Blues Essay - All of humanity suffers at one point or another during the course of their lives. It is in this suffering, this inevitable pain, that one truly experiences life. While suffering unites humankind, it is how we choose to cope with this pain that defines us as individuals. The question becomes do we let suffering consume us, or do we let it define our lives. Through James Baldwin’s story, “Sonny’s Blues”, the manner by which one confronts the light and darkness of suffering determines whether one is consumed by it, or embraces it in order to “survive.” Viewing a collection of these motifs, James Baldwin’s unique perspective on suffering as a crucial component of human development becomes appare...   [tags: term papers, literary analysis, analytical]2447 words
(7 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
The Power of Music in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues Essay - The Power of Music in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues At first glance, "Sonny's Blues" seems ambiguous about the relationship between music and drugs. After all, the worlds of jazz and drug addiction are historically intertwined; it could be possible that Sonny's passion for jazz is merely an excuse for his lifestyle and addiction, as the narrator believes for a time. Or perhaps the world that Sonny has entered by becoming involved in jazz is the danger- if he had not encountered jazz he wouldn't have encountered drugs either....   [tags: Sonny's Blues Essays]
:: 1 Works Cited
1545 words
(4.4 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
Light and Dark in the Book Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin Essay examples - ... When he was released from prison his brother was there to meet him. He finds his reemergence into the world through his love for music. For Sonny, music is his guiding light. From the beginning, the narrator introduces the imagery of light and dark that will come to be the dominating theme of the story. In the first scene, the narrator is contemplating Sonny's fate in the dark subway. The "swinging lights of the subway car" allow him to read about Sonny's arrest, while the "darkness roared outside" (91)....   [tags: positive, struggle, drug, character]
:: 1 Works Cited
776 words
(2.2 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Essay about Analysis of James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues - James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues tells the story of the narrator and his brother and the hardships that they must endure. As Kahlil Gibran States “Out of suffering have emerged the strangest souls, the most massive characters are seared with scars.” (Gibran). In that very quote the real light is shown as it informs the reader that with suffering comes growth and once the person whomever it may be emerges out of the darkness they may have scars but it has made them stronger. The theme of light and darkness as well as suffering play a vital part in this story....   [tags: Suffering, Father, Son]
:: 3 Works Cited
718 words
(2.1 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Illusion in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Birthmark and Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin - Illusion can be defined as a distortion of the senses, of reality, and the perception of a dream like world that consumes us. James Baldwin author of the short story “Sonny’s Blues” uses the unique creativity of illusion to therefore draw in his readers. He uses several literary elements including characterization, plot, and setting to express his elaborate use of illusion in this story. Likewise Nathaniel Hawthorne author of the most controversial short story “The Birthmark” also uses illusion to draw attention to an almost magical setting of mystery and morality....   [tags: illusion, theme, literary analysis]
:: 2 Works Cited
718 words
(2.1 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Sonny's Blues Essay - James Baldwin's short story, "Sonny's Blues", tells the tale of two brothers, as they come to an understanding of each other. The use of imagery and figurative language can help the reader grasp a deeper meaning of what the narrator is focusing on. In "Sonny's Blues", the predominant imageries throughout the narrative are the reoccurring contrasting images of light and darkness, symbolizing hope and despair. Children filled with hope, feel that they can engage in any profession they want and are naive to the despair of their lives....   [tags: World Literature]570 words
(1.6 pages)
Good Essays[preview]

Related Searches

James Baldwin         Sonny         Blues         Using Music         Social Barriers         Main Character         Similarity         Algebra         Surroundings        




They were filled with rage. All they really knew were two darknesses, the darkness of their lives, which was now closing in on them, and darkness of the movies, which had blinded them to that other darkness, and in which they now, vindictively, dreamed, at once more together than they were at any other time, and more alone." (350)

The passage demonstrates how darkness has overcome the lives of the children without their realizing it. The darkness represents the lack of opportunity available to them. The young boys live in a dark reality where they do not know and are not familiar with light, and therefore do not have anything to look forward to.

The motif of light and darkness is also demonstrated when the narrator recalls his and Sonny's childhood and gives examples regarding his recollection of his family on Sunday evenings. The narrator makes several points in regard to the silence in the room and "the darkness growing against the windowpanes"(356). He states that the darkness that is outside is where the older generation of his family comes from and what they bear. He recalls the children sitting on the mother's lap and he points out that

"the silence, the darkness coming, and the darkness in the faces frighten the child obscurely. He hopes that the hand which strokes his forehead will never stop--will never die. But something deep and watchful in the child knows that this is bound to end, is already ending. And when the light fills the room, the child is filled with darkness." (357)

In this quote, the narrator is showing that with the light comes knowledge of the world for the child. The light is bleak and not always encouraging. When the child exposes himself to the world he loses part of his innocence and childhood. Therefore, the child may wish to remain in the darkness. The darkness in this specific excerpt is personified as a slow and gentle relief. The narrator attempts to convey the concept that darkness, which is reality, means nothing without light to illuminate it because the light makes one aware of the dark, and therefore comprehend reality.

The pain that Sonny undergoes is only satisfied when he is playing his music, and it is through this that the narrator accepts Sonny as a person and as a musician. Acceptance of Sonny's profession is extremely difficult for the narrator because he has always associated Sonny's music with darkness and drugs. Nevertheless, the darkness of the night in the jazz club illustrates the complication and wonder of jazz to the narrator. In the jazz club, there is a struggle with light and darkness. This is exemplified when Sonny and the rest of the musicians wait to go on stage and the narrator notices

"The light from the bandstand spilled just a little short of them and, watching them laughing and gesturing and moving about, I had the feeling that they, nevertheless, were being most careful not to step into the circle of light too suddenly; that if they moved into the light too suddenly, without thinking, they would perish in flame." (370)

The passage suggests that to embrace the truth and gain conscious awareness too quickly is painful and devastating.

The daily struggles of life are all the same for everyone; however, the manner in which it is tackled is different. Within the consciousness of reality that is obvious throughout this story, there are peace and hope, which make the darkness and life worth living. The two brothers attempt to repair the void that has been left in their lives and are surrounded by a world full of shadows and light. Jointly, they face the unavoidable darkness that had overwhelmed their lives. Using music as a form of communication, the brothers are able to overcome their differences and create order in their chaotic life. The painful realization of the truth enables them to redirect their lives and rebuild a relationship marked by drugs and poverty.

Work Cited

Baldwin, James. "Sonny's Blues." Legacies. Ed. Carley Rees Bogarad and Jan Zlotnik Schmidt. 2nd ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers, 2002. 349-73.



0 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *