Music and Bible in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues - Research Paper Example

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This is a book review of the ‘Sonny’s Blues’ written by James Baldwin and what is the role of Bible and Music is in this book?…
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Music and Bible in James Baldwins Sonnys Blues
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"Music and Bible in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues"

Download file to see previous pages Music also provides the context for which the narrator finally sees his brother for who he is at the end of the story while playing jazz music. The unnamed narrator of ‘Sonny’s Blues’ engages an estranged and strained relationship with his brother throughout the story. While each is not trying to out-do the other in terms of impressing other people or gaining acclaim of any kind as is the case in most conventional sibling rivalries, it is their opposing lifestyles and attitudes which are fighting against each other as the narrator cannot accept his brothers actions and constantly attempts to coax him into a more traditional and ‘normal’ lifestyle like his own as he does not understand Sonny’s self-destructive behaviours, “"Tell me," I said at last, "why does he want to die? He must want to die, he's killing himself, why does he want to die?" (38). Though the narrator has largely ignored his troubled younger brother for many years, when he does reach out to him while in jail, their lack of communication is evident as the narrator realises that he does not really know his brother at all. His mother asks him to watch out for his brother, "You got to hold on to your brother," she said, "and don't let him fall, no matter what it looks like is happening and no matter how evil you gets with him" (104), but has not done so for years. At the beginning of the story, the narrator sees news of his brother’s trouble in the newspaper and it is only because of this report that “Sonny became real to [him] again” (Baldwin 3). The narrator enjoys a conventional and respectable lifestyle – he is married with a family, maintains a full-time teaching job and is a respected member of the community in which he grew up. In stark contrast with this, the younger brother Sonny, has engaged in drug use since a very young age and has been in trouble with the law consistently. Feeling extremely trapped in his life by facing obstacles typical of that of a black man in Harlem during the 1960s, Sonny represents the problems faced by that community at that particular time (Reilly 56). The dynamics of this relationship is greatly reflective of the biblical story of Cain and Abel from the book of Genesis (Tackach). In the story, Cain is portrayed as being extremely sinful and kills his brother Abel. Though an extreme comparison, the fundamental differences between Cain and Abel and the tensions this causes, reflect the difference between the narrator and his brother as Sonny appears to be corrupted with temptation and sin while the narrator enjoys a highly moral, acceptable and conventional lifestyle. From the very beginning of the story right through to the end, music plays an extremely fundamental and important role in this narrative. It is through music that the narrator finally understands his brother, feels his passion and sees his unique and positive qualities. When he first sees Sonny after his stint in jail, he initially does not recognise him “Yet, when he smiled, when we shook hands, the baby brother I’d never known looked out from the depths of his private life, like an animal waiting to be coaxed into the light” (Baldwin 35). It is not until the very end of the story, when he and Sonny go to a jazz club ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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