Identity Formation In A & P And Sonny's Blues By James Baldwin

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After World War 2, identity formation was complex for many. This was due to global conflict, changing social norms, and the emergence of new cultural movements. These complexities of identity formation are brilliantly explored in the short stories "A&P" by John Updike and "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin. These stories depict characters navigating societal expectations, racial and class boundaries, and the power of artistic expression as they strive to establish their unique identities. Set against the backdrop of a society that seeks to conform individuals to predetermined roles, the stories offer profound insights into the challenges faced by individuals in a time of cultural and social upheaval. Through vivid portrayals of the struggles …show more content…

As such, "A&P" and "Sonny's Blues" serve as powerful literary examples that dive into the intricacies of human identity and the ways in which individuals strive to break free from societal constraints to assert their individuality.
In John Updike's "A&P," the main character, Sammy, impulsively quits his job at a grocery store after defending three girls in bathing suits who are reprimanded for their attire. However, as Sammy searches for the girls outside the store, he realizes the potential consequences of his impulsive action. The grocery store represents a commodified society where people's desires are determined by their purchasing ability. The girls, who defy the store's rules and attract attention, are perceived by Sammy as having a higher social class, intriguing him but also eliciting disdain. Cristian Aguiar, in his article "Living class in John Updike's A&P," points out that Sammy's understanding of social class and identity is complex, as he describes the girls in terms of their perceived social class and economic status, using words like "queen" and "primadonna." He also uses derogatory terms …show more content…

The narrator's initial rejection of Sonny's choice to pursue jazz music can be seen as a manifestation of society's stigma towards addiction and its impact on one's identity. However, as the story progresses, the narrator comes to understand that Sonny's music is not just a form of escape from addiction but also a way for him to express his inner self and find his place in the world. Literary analysis critic Patrick F. Walter, who has written extensively about addiction in Sonny's Blues, argues that "addiction in "Sonny's Blues" fractures scripted and organized forms of individuality" (Walter 53). This shows that addiction ultimately serves as a representation of the flaws and limitations in conventional models of personal identity and behavior. Sonny's drug addiction represents his struggle to conform to societal norms and expectations while also yearning for freedom and self-expression. As such, Baldwin portrays addiction as a manifestation of Sonny's rebellion against societal constraints and an avenue for exploring alternative forms of identity and connection beyond traditional social

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