The Light and Darkness of Suffering Depicted in Sonny's Blues

2446 Words 10 Pages
All of humanity suffers at one point or another during the course of their lives. It is in this suffering, this inevitable pain, that one truly experiences life. While suffering unites humankind, it is how we choose to cope with this pain that defines us as individuals. The question becomes do we let suffering consume us, or do we let it define our lives? Through James Baldwin’s story, “Sonny’s Blues”, the manner by which one confronts the light and darkness of suffering determines whether one is consumed by it, or embraces it in order to “survive.” Viewing a collection of these motifs, James Baldwin’s unique perspective on suffering as a crucial component of human development becomes apparent. It is through his compassionate portrayal of …show more content…
They have not escaped from anything, life is still the same as it always was. It is through these unfortunate, but inevitable, events that the brothers are able to reconnect and to obtain an understanding of each other. The interplay of dark and light motifs underlies the narrator’s most recent hardship. On his way home on the subway, the narrator comes across his brother’s name in a newspaper and “stared at it in the swinging lights of the subway car, and in the faces and bodies of the people, and in my own face, trapped in the darkness which roared outside” (Baldwin). Riding in the light of the subway car, the author makes the non-suspecting narrator subject to suffering, unguarded by the protective cloak of the outside darkness. Made vulnerable by the exposed light and people surrounding him, the narrator is hit harder by the unexpected news than if he had read it in the darkness of his private room. Under the “swinging lights,” the narrator is not prepared to cope with the troubling news. This emphasizes the importance of light as a symbol for one’s need of camouflage to properly cope with tragedy. The narrator finds himself confronted with different forms of suffering that encompass both light and dark mechanisms of survival. Upon seeing Sonny for the first time in many years, “He looked very unlike my baby brother. Yet, when he smiled… the baby brother I’d never known looked out from the depths of his private life, like
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