Sonny's Blues Stylistic Analysis

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James Baldwin utilizes a biographical approach to reveal his personal experience of the Harlem Renaissance era and how it is has impacted his life, which allows the reader to connect and empathize with the characters throughout “Sonny’s Blues.” During this time, he struggles to understand the life of his relative, resulting in an act of selfishness and later develops into a character that becomes aware of the hardships of poverty and drug addiction, a burden that is hard to escape. This manifestation is depicted through a religious symbol, the cup of trembling.
Right at the beginning of “Sonny’s Blues,” the narrator is filled with unbelief that his brother, Sonny, is bound by the lifestyle of Harlem at such a young age. He didn’t want to come to the realization that the unwanted dream of his “brother going down, coming to nothing, all the light in his face gone out,” (73) had come true, a condition he already seen many others undergo. Consequently, he becomes indignant at the nature of an addiction surrounding the African American community in Harlem and
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It signifies the suffering and the fear that plagued the people, as well as the promise from God to take it away. Similarly, Baldwin uses the cup of trembling to highlight Sonny’s need for music as it decreases his suffering from a difficult and complicated position that he is in, while removing the fear from the narrator that his brother isn’t able to acquire success or cope with the lifestyle he is bound by. When Sonny sips from the cup, he reminds us of all the suffering he has endured and offers the chance for redemption and peace. This means that Sonny has redeemed himself and has received forgiveness from his brother. It could also be seen as Sonny’s redemption for others, depicted through the narrator’s observations of Sonny’s performance; “Freedom lurked around us, and I understood at last, that he could he help us to be free if we listen.”

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