Analysis Of James Baldwin 's ' Sonny 's Blues ' Essay

2098 Words Oct 5th, 2014 9 Pages
Plagued by rundown housing projects, drugs, violence, and seemingly endless despair, mid-twentieth century Harlem was a bleak prospect at its best. James Baldwin, born into this environment in the mid 1920’s, uses what he experienced during his life in Harlem to expand the depth with which he explores his literary works. In his short story Sonny’s Blues, Baldwin takes readers on a journey through hell from the perspective of two men: an unnamed narrator and his brother, Sonny. In Sonny’s Blues, Baldwin uses music to highlight the characters internal and external struggles for salvation and peace in a broken world.
Sonny’s Blues is filled with the sounds and culture of music. Throughout the story, Baldwin uses music as a motif in various ways, each of which serves a unique purpose. It is important to note that Sonny’s preferred style of music is not the blues; it is a form of jazz called “bebop”. Bebop, or bop, is characterized by solos, improvisation, and individuality (Albert). It is no surprise that Sonny mirrors his favorite bop musician, Charlie Parker, who is arguably one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. Parker and his contemporaries “developed new and difficult forms – faster tempos, altered chords, and harmonies that involved greater ranges of notes which were frequently played at blistering speeds.” (Albert) At the beginning of the story, the narrator hears a boy whistling outside of the classroom. He describes it as “at once very complicated and…

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