Sonny's Blues Imprisonment In "Sonny's Research Proposal


He tells his brother at one point that the feeling heroine gave him at many times was a feeling of being in control, and that it was important for him to have that feeling sometimes. The rest of the world, it is made clear, does not actually give either sonny or his brother a great deal of control, and though both brothers join the military during "the war" (presumably World War II), there is no sense of a wider world of possibilities, but only the darkness and bleakness that exists in Harlem. Heroine provided a sense of control, perhaps, but it is obviously a false impression -- it is actually the cause of Sonny's true, physical imprisonment. It can be seen as part of the ceiling that the young men of Harlem bump their heads into as they grow up in a rush -- drugs are a part of what's holding the community back.


The low ceiling of possibilities that the people of Harlem must live with as a reality can be seen as pushing them down and sideways, into such avenues as drug use and other types of criminality and degradation. In this way, the imprisonment seen in "Sonny's Blues" and at work in the world of Harlem as shown in the story is self-perpetuating, creating other methods of imprisonment that are sure to keep this ceiling low. Music, for Sonny and symbolically for the other characters in the story, is the only way of achieving a little but of freedom, which is evidenced by the narrator's comment that the musician has to make his instrument "do everything." Compared to the nothing of Harlem, this is Sonny's only chance.

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