James Baldwins Sonny's Blues - Book Report/Review Example

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The short story of James Baldwin entitled Sonny's Blues has received a variety of reaction from both readers and critics. According to one source1, "While stories in periodicals are generally not reviewed, the magazine in which "Sonny's Blues" appeared does give some indication of Baldwin's place in the literary world at that time…
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James Baldwins Sonnys Blues
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Download file to see previous pages Though he was already a known author when he wrote this story, it has something in it that stirred the readers to take it seriously since it is Baldwin's most anthologized and most critically discussed short story.
To mention the variety of responses, this essay tries to mention a few examples of how his readers see his work. According to one source,2 Sonny's Blues has biblical foundations. Although there are only a few critical discussions along this line, it is interesting to note that Robert Reid, in an article devoted mainly to Baldwin's narrator's identity concerns. He compares the narrator to the biblical Ishmael and Sonny to Isaac. The narrator, like Ishmael has been alienated when Isaac came into the scene. All the focus was on the newcomer and Ishmael was pushed to the shadows. This brings in more than just normal sibling rivalry but deeper hurts and wounds that lingered for a long time.
Another critical review is taking and categorizing it as a black story.3 For Louis H. Pratt, "Sonny's Blues" is specifically a black story. He asserted in James Baldwin that the stories in Going to Meet the Man all deal with the "insurmountable fears - conscious and unconscious - which grow out of the experience of being black in a white-oriented society." To overcome these fears, Pratt believed, Baldwin's characters must "open a line of communication with the past." "This channel can be opened only though personal suffering," Pratt concluded. Where Sonny already has this channel open and is using the blues to overcome his fears and his suffering, Sonny's brother must experience the death of his daughter first in order to open himself up to the blues.
On the other hand, Reilly, in James Baldwin: A Critical Evaluation, believed that the story "not only states dramatically the motive for Baldwin's famous polemics in the cause of Black freedom, but it also provides an esthetic linking his work, in all genres, with the cultures of the Black ghetto." For Reilly, as for Pratt, Baldwin's story is essentially an African-American one.
Another critic is Patricia R. Robertson. In The University of Mississippi Studies in English, she examined the religious grounding of the story. On the other hand, Suzy Bernstein Goldman, in Negro American Literature Forum, discussed jazz and blues parallels. In the following years, the most popular approach to Baldwin's work has been an examination of his themes of homosexuality, but few of those articles deal with "Sonny's Blues."4
It is recorded in an interview with Baldwin that he spoke about the impetus for "Sonny's Blues." He said: "I grew up with music, you know, much more than with any other language," he said. "In a way, the music I grew up with saved my life." 5
According to further reviews, "Sonny's Blues" is considered one of Baldwin's most compelling and effective pieces of short fiction, as well as a deft portrayal of the substantial role jazz music has played in American society in general and in the African-American community in particular. Many critics have evaluated "Sonny's Blues" against Baldwin's longer works, focusing on the themes of suffering and redemption. A few critics have noted inconsistencies in the story's tone; others have argued that Baldwin's treatment of social and political issues is too heavy-handed. Even so, "Sonny's Blues" ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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