Redemption In Sonny's Blues, By James Baldwin

1150 Words5 Pages
In writing about the black experience in America, James Baldwin often took a very negative viewpoint, saying once that he could never escape his identity and the racial oppression in America, even when living abroad. This is reflected in his short story "Sonny 's Blues," where the narrator is a person who feels trapped, like he has no future and no way out. He has a very pessimistic outlook on the world, that he and everyone around him are being held captive by Harlem and cannot escape the perpetual cycle of poverty and drug use. He also distances himself from his brother in attempt to escape. But over time, as he starts to reconnect with his brother, he realizes that his situation is not as one-dimensional as he thought. In "Sonny 's Blues," James Baldwin shows how pain is not something to be escaped, but something that must be accepted and even embraced in order to achieve redemption, as can be seen through Sonny 's explanations to the narrator throughout the story and by the narrator 's final realizations and abandonment his negative outlook on Sonny at the conclusion of the story. For most of the story, the narrator suppresses his own pain and looks down on Sonny’s way of living because of his lack of understanding. All of the pain he keeps pent up…show more content…
The jazz club scene also shows how the narrator receives a glimpse of the redemption that this pain can bring. When he first starts listening to Sonny 's music, he describes how it could show them "how we could cease lamenting" (148). In this way, it gives him a glimpse of a future without any suffering of this suffering. It also gives him the feeling that "freedom lurked around us" (148). Baldwin shows that addressing pain has this freeing effect. The "cup of trembling" (144) that the narrator mentions specifically comes from the book of Isaiah, which deals with promises of the restoration of the Israelites to the Holy Land after the Babylonian exile, which connects deeply with the story 's theme
Open Document