Freedom in Music in "Sonny's Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Sonny's brother wakes up and states, "Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did" (47). Sonny was more free and living a life more true than his brother realized.

The transformation in Sonny's brother is dramatic. Duncan writes, "By the end of the story, the narrator has gained much more than an astute musical ear. He has learned . . . To listen" (Duncan). Throughout the story, Baldwin designates the act of listening as the linchpin of this moral tale; by focusing on an often-overlooked component of communication, this early Baldwin story illustrates how Brother, initially deaf to what Sonny calls "all that hatred and misery and love," opens his ears to his culture, his brother, and himself. and, through Brother's example, readers might also become more willing to accept attitudes and lifestyles that do not conform to social convention" (Duncan). The connection Between Sonny and his brother become more prominent because of the different directions the men's lives have taken. Sonny, the herion addict, copes with the hardships of life with music. He tells Sonny it is "terrible sometimes, inside . . . And there's no way of getting it out -- that storm inside (43). Here we see that music is more than just a hobby for Sonny -- it is, by many accounts, his salvation. What music does to and through Sonny transcends words but it means freedom and that is exactly what Sonny needs to survive. It truly is something that exists beyond words and for the first time. Duncan writes that after Sonny's brother watches him play, the "first real communication between the two brothers" (Duncan) occurs. Sonny says about him addictions, "You can't talk it and you can't make love with it, and when you finally try to get with it and play it, you realize nobody's listening. So you've got to listen. You got to find a way to listen" (42). Duncan states that this kind of expression is nothing astounding coming from a musician. However, his "uncharacteristically astute assessment of his own role in perpetuating Sonny's problem" (Duncan) is and Sonny's brother realizes any amount of advice he could give Sonny at this point would be "empty words and lies" (42). Sonny communicates with those around him in an almost magical way that only leaves his brother envious.

"Sonny's Blues" is a tale of redemption between two brothers. Sonny, a loser heroin addict teaches brother the importance of finding something beautiful to which you can identify. Music is the tool that sets Sonny free and his brother can only experience that kind of freedom from a distance -- until he feels the music for himself.

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. "Sonny's Blues." The Norton Anthology of Short

Fiction R.V. Cassill,

ed. W.

W. Norton and Company. New York: 1981. pp. 22-48.

Duncan, Charles, "Learning to listen to 'Sonny's Blues.'" Obsidian II. 9.2-1994.

Literature Resource Center. Information

Retrieved February 12, 2011. Web.

Hicks, Jennifer. "An overview of 'Sonny's Blues." In Short Stories for Students,

Literature Resource Center. 1997.

Information Retrieved February 12, 2011. Web.

Reilly, John. "Sonny's Blues': James Baldwin's Image of Black Community." Negro

American Literature Forum. 1970. JSTOR Resource…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. "Sonny's Blues." The Norton Anthology of Short

Fiction R.V. Cassill,

ed. W.

W. Norton and Company. New York: 1981. pp. 22-48.

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