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The Bible and Suffering’s Relation to Music in “sonny’s Blues”

Autor:   •  January 5, 2018  •  937 Words (4 Pages)  •  280 Views

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cup of trembling. Also, like the people of Jerusalem in the Old Testament story, Sonny has suffered God’s fury, but is now free from affliction. Sonny’s personal cup of trembling has become a shining halo above Sonny’s head. Sonny’s sinning and suffering have turned him into a saint. The narrator is also redeemed because he, unlike the Cain of Genesis, has accepted the responsibility to be his brother’s keeper.

The motifs of suffering and music flow through “Sonny’s Blues.” The blues music is used as a metaphor for the expression of individual suffering. The older brother’s need to understand Sonny enables him to suffer. He is enabled by his own problems, especially the death of his young daughter, Grace. The uncontrollability of loss leads him to discover his brother’s own responses to unpredictable sorrow and need through drug addiction and music. The motif of music, specifically the blues links together past and present, memory and reality, sorrow and desire, and strangeness and familiarity.

Sonny’s music is acceptable as the counterpart to his addiction. Grace’s death is signalled by an absence of sound around her. Sonny only moves to make insightful music of his profound sound once rehabilitation forces him to shed his addict identity. The passage that best illustrates the central concern of suffering is presented as the climax of the story. Hearing Sonny play, the narrator notices that Sonny has entered an artistic space. His older brother understands Sonny’s love for music, despite his disdain for jazz. Baldwin’s story illustrates the personal suffering in the form of drug addiction. Sonny expresses his troubled sense of self through jazz.

Baldwin creates the opportunity for empathy with the troubled and troubling character as well as his more responsible brother. According to Kowalska, the notion of “trouble” is presented by Baldwin as being both individual and universal forms of suffering. It is a form of suffering which can be meaningful as it is expressed by the character of Sonny in the story, by Baldwin in the writing of it, or by the reader in accepting it.

In conclusion, the motifs of Biblical allusions, suffering, and music deepen the meaning of James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues.”

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. Sonny’s Blues. Cambridge: Harvard University, 21 Mar. 2016. PDF.

Kowalska, Eva. "Troubled Reading: ’Sonny’s Blues’ and Empathy/Bewoe Lees: ’Sonny’s Blues’ En Empatie." Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, Comparative Linguistics and Literary Studies 36.1 (2015): n. pag.PERIODICAL SUBCOLLECTION. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.

Tackach, James. "The Biblical Foundation of James Baldwin’s "Sonny’s Blues"" Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 59.2 (2007): 109. PERIODICAL SUBCOLLECTION. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.


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