The Theme of “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin
The main theme of “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin is Sonny’s desire to be a jazz musician. However, to my opinion, this short story includes many small but important themes. These themes disclose relations between people, their thoughts and dreams, feelings, psychological states. The most important in the story are the relations between Sonny and his elder brother. I think that such set of small themes helps readers understand and feel the main theme better. In this essay, will be analyzed the themes of “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin.
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James Baldwin masterly describes people’s psychology. The descriptions of characters’ thoughts and feelings take a large part of a story. Much description is devoted to Sonny’s brother – another main character together with Sonny.
Sonny brother’s name is never mentioned in the story. However, he is a main character. James Baldwin writes in a good manner about Sonny’s brother feelings and relations with people, which helps the readers to understand the story better.
Main character’s relations with other people are shown deeply. He is depicted as a caring family member. Sonny’s brother takes much care of Sonny, even though he has his own family. Sonny seems quite strange and wild to the main character; however, he thinks about his brother a lot. News about Sonny’s arrest strikes his brother strongly. “I read about 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. Then perhaps I just stared at it, at the newsprint spelling out his name, spelling out the story” (Baldwin, 1957).
The author also shows how the main character’s relations with other people change. For example, Sonny’s brother did not like Sonny’s friend as he was too young for him. However, after Sonny’s friend talks to Sonny’s brother, tells him everything about Sonny and offers his help, the main character’s attitude to this person changes suddenly. Main character stopped hating Sonny’s friend. He even liked him, and it aroused the desire to cry.
Sonny’s brother seems to have forgotten about Sonny’s troubles. Maybe, work and family took his consideration. However, he remembers about Sonny and writes him a letter after the death of his daughter. Sorrow is likely to be the reason to remember somebody’s relatives and friends, “I think I may have written Sonny the very day that little Grace was buried. I was sitting in the living room in the dark, by myself, and I suddenly thought of Sonny. My trouble made his real” (Baldwin, 1957).
Sonny’s brother seems not to understand Sonny completely. Moreover, he realizes that they became even more different. Sonny did not only look another way; his inner world changed, too. Sonny did not look like the main character’s brother any more. He became completely other person. A psychological distance between Sonny and his brother became very large.
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Sonny became an adult with his own feelings and dreams, and it was difficult for his brother to understand it. He does not understand Sonny’s desire to become a jazz musician. Sonny’s brother seems to be more practical. He is a teacher. He knows about his uncle-musician’s tragic death. He wants Sonny to have a good job and study. Sonny’s desire becomes a large surprise for his brother; he does not consider Sonny serious.
In the story, Sonny is shown as a bit strange and romantic person. His desire to become a musician seems strange and unserious to others. However, the author shows that Sonny is always trying to make his dream come true, even though his relatives are against it. Sonny even does not go to school – music is of the highest importance to him. It is a sense of his life, even though others do not support his dreams.
Baldwin shows that Sonny learns music very assiduously. He seems to be born a musician: the author even calls him a music god and monster. Sonny’s world is quite strange to others. They do not understand him playing piano all day long.
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In the end, Sonny is at last understood and appreciated by others. They realized that Sonny did what he liked the best, “…the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason” (Baldwin, 1957).
Therefore, Sonny’s desire to become a jazz musician is the main theme of the story. However, it does not exist alone. The theme of psychological relations between people is also touched. This theme seems to be additional; however, it can be also called the main theme. Without understanding relations between Sonny, his brother and others, it would be more difficult for the readers to understand Sonny’s inner world. His dreams and inner world are contrasted with the thoughts of his brother and relatives. They do not understand Sonny because they are more practical in their lives. At last, they realize the depth of Sonny’s soul after hearing his performance.