Symbolism in "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin Essay

1286 WordsFeb 11, 20126 Pages
Symbolism in “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin In James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” the reader meets Sonny, a recovering addict, and his older brother, a high school teacher. Although these two brothers have completely different lives and personalities, the author’s use of symbolism brings them more tightly together like a real family. Baldwin uses symbols such as ice, lightness and darkness, and jazz music to add more depth and meaning to “Sonny’s Blues.” People usually think of ice or the cold as being bitter and causing discomfort. When it is cold outside, people wear jackets to eliminate the bitterness of the cold. In “Sonny’s Blues,” Sonny uses heroine to escape the discomfort of the reality that is his life. Heroine is Sonny’s…show more content…
Another symbol that Baldwin uses throughout the story is the symbol of lightness and darkness. Lightness and darkness usually symbolize good and evil. One example of darkness that Baldwin uses in “Sonny’s Blues” is when Mama, the narrator’s mother, was telling him about the death of his and Sonny’s uncle. After Mama told the story of the brothers’ uncle being run over and killed by a car full of white men, she said, “Your Daddy says he never in his life seen anything as dark as that road after the lights of that car had gone away” (58). In this example, Baldwin uses the darkness of the road to create a deeper meaning behind the uncle’s death and the father’s sadness. The reason the father felt as if nothing could ever be as dark as that road is because he experiences his only brother dying in front of him. Death, especially murder, is considered to be a very “dark” subject. When there is a funeral, mostly every person is wearing black or dark clothing because he is mourning over the death of a loved one. Another example is when the narrator reminisces on the days when all of the ‘old folks’ would sit around in the living room after church. “They would all sit in the chairs while the night is creeping up outside, but no one knows it yet…everyone is looking at something a child cannot see” (56). Baldwin uses the darkness of night as a symbol of death in this
Open Document