Sonny's Blues Rhetorical Analysis Essay

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Combining a love for music and a personal history of racism, segregation, poverty and drugs in 1940’s Harlem, James Baldwin tells a story about Sonny, a blues loving composer with a dark history, living in Harlem in the early 1900’s. In the story “Sonny’s Blues” we meet the narrator and his brother and learn about the hardships of their lives, including the loss of their parents and a lifelong struggle with heroin addiction. As Sonny grows up in a racial charged borough of New York City he learns how to play the piano and channels his loss and suffering into music that provides an escape for others. Baldwin utilizes symbolism, flashbacks and antithesis to propose the idea that people can get through the trials and tribulations of life by being their brother’s keeper and looking out …show more content…

Baldwin brings the narrator’s journey to a conclusion using antithesis to show the connection between suffering and salvation. Throughout the work, Baldwin is showing an escape for the characters through music, “The juke box was blasting away… watched the barmaid as she danced … I watched her face as she laughingly responded … When she smiled one saw the little girl, one sensed the doomed, still-struggling woman beneath the battered face of the semi-whore” (76). He describes the music as “Freedom [that] lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen” (100). However, as Sonny tells his brother “listening to that woman sing, it struck me all of a sudden how much suffering she must have had to go through—to sing like that”, we learn that this freedom comes at a cost. As the narrator dives deeper into Sonny’s world he comes to the realization that living with his suffering is a choice that Sonny made and may continue to make for the sake of the people

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