The Meaning of Jazz in African American Culture Particularly in Harlem During the 1950’s

2384 WordsDec 1, 200810 Pages
The Meaning of Jazz in African American Culture Particularly in Harlem During the 1950’s In the Baldwin’s story, Sonny’s Blues, the author portrays African -Americans in the urban life. Even though he writes about reconciliation of two brothers, who are trying to overcome their differences and to come to understand each other, the story shows the meaning of Jazz in African American culture, particularly in Harlem during 1950. The urban life in Harlem has being described by many authors, including James Baldwin. The life of an African American man in this place during the 1950’s was a “disaster”, “faces and bodies” […] were “trapped in the darkness” (Baldwin n.pag). It was a time prior to the Civil Rights Movement, the time of…show more content…
The story portrays that the conflict between two brothers is more complex than it seems to be. Sonny tries to prove that “living by another man’s definition of success, or worse, being hemmed in by discrimination that deprives one true freedom, is like being dead. Music, art, and even drugs are avenues out of that social death, even as they are, in their own ways, dangerous or subversive” (Class Lecture). Sonny becomes a drug user and gets arrested for possession of narcotics. “Those who try to escape on the streets find themselves encircled by disaster” (Baldwin n.pag). In his adolescence, Sonny succumbs to the streets and ends up hooked on dope and in prison” (Flibbert n.pag). Even though, Sonny tries to explain himself, the narrator chooses not to be involved. Later in the story he reconciles with his younger brother after the death of his daughter. The pain of loss made him more sensitive to his brother’s feelings. The narrator in the beginning assumes “that he has escaped "the underclass"(Baldwin n.pag), but what he discovers later is that his younger brother is still stuck there addicted to heroin, and he will never find a peace until he saves him”(Reid n.pag). What he begins to discover with Sonny's arrest and literal imprisonment is that he cannot free himself from responsibility for his brother. “He is his brother's keeper […] and the vision that will make life and freedom from bondage possible is not the Platonic, Apollonian vision of

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