Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Interpreting "Sonny's Blues"


As you were assigned in class, interpret the below passage and relate it to a theme of the story, "Sonny's Blues." Be sure to use specific examples from the text as well as direct quotes to illustrate your points. Refer to the "Writing About Fiction" fun-pack that I gave you in class last week for help on formatting, etc.

The quote: "For while the tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard."


I have finished my own answer to this prompt, albeit without having proofed it yet. But I hope my own, sometimes too wordy writing, serves as a decent model of one way you could go about developing your thesis points.

I have in bold and italics my thesis statement, which is pretty indirect. The body paragraphs follow the basic, thesis idea and are illustrated with examples--direct quotes and some summary--from/of the story itself. Notice that none of my quotes are "hanging" alone. I introduce them with a phrase or weave them into a complete sentence. I also make sure that they are supplemented with some explanation that helps the reader to interpret them.

This is due by class time on Thursday, September 25, 2008. Please be sure to follow the proper heading format as I demonstrate below.

To post a comment, simply click "Post a Comment", or, if that is not listed, click "Comments" and then follow the rather self-explanatory directives that pop up in the new window. In order to make it easier for yourself in terms of formatting your own response, write out your response in a WORD document first and then copy and paste it into the "Comment" box. If you want to see the original post as well as the comments on one page, click the header above: Interpreting "Sonny's Blues"

Happy Writing!
BRobPeach, FSC

Bro. Robert Peach, FSC (my name)
Bro. Robert Peach, FSC (the teacher's name)
ENG 165 / Writing the Essay (the subject)
25 September 2008 (date due)

Yesterday's Blues: Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues" and the Restorative Power of Music
(a relatively clever title)
Thesis paragraph: Towards the end of James Baldwin's short story of interpersonal healing, "Sonny's Blues," the narrator tells us, "For while the tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted and how we may trimph is never new, it always must be heard" (51). Speaking through the elder brother of the afflicted genius, Sonny, Baldwin proffers a personal philosophy which suggests that while human experiences are often the same--be they ones of despair or hope--they are made uniquely real by the power of their expression in communication with others, be it through conversation or, as in the case of young Sonny and his older brother, through music (i.e. jazz and the blues). Baldwin's short story of reconciliation between two, formerly estranged brothers is thus a fitting declaration of victory over the pain of human suffering that demonstrates the religious power of art to express the deepest of human emotions, to indeed serve as a means to "tell the tale of how we suffer and how we are delgithed and how we may triumph," which, though never new, "must always be heard" if we are to survive (Baldwin 51). In "Sonny's Blues," it is through the character of Sonny and his love for music that the narrator's own story of suffering is expressed in a way that brings him and us into a better, more empathetic, understanding of Sonny's story of struggle and triumph.

First developing paragraph (2nd in all) with some summary: Ironically enough, Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues" is less about Sonny than it is about Sonny's older brother who, again, is responsible for telling Sonny's tale. But as he recounts his difficulty in confronting his little brother's battle with an addiction to heroin as well as Sonny's rebellious love for playing the blues and jazz, which seems to isolate him from his family, we see that the narrator ultimately comes into a greater understanding of himself in relation to Sonny. Really, Sonny's own struggles to find an identity as a young black musician in the harsh urban environment of Harlem provides a shadowy backdrop to the setting of his older brother's battle to reconcile--spritiually, emotionally, physically, psychologically or otherwise--with broken relationships involving his dead, alcoholic father; his deceased daughter, Gracie; or Sonny.

Second developing paragraph: Moving like an improvisational jazz tune or mournful blues anthem, the narrator's tale of fraternal strife and ultimate healing moves back and forth in time as he recalls in bits and pieces his shared history with Sonny. The story transitions into the subtley warm moment of jazz-inspired reunion at the end with the image of Sonny lifting up all of his woes in full-bodied piano notes as if praying to the heavens for release. The narrator's account here stands in stark contrast to the beginning of the story wherein, at the news of hearing about Sonny's arrest for drugs, he states, "A great block of ice got settled in my belly and kept melting their slowly all day long, while I taught my classes algebra" (Baldwin 26). The narrator's emotionally distant iciness that sent "trickles of ice water all up and down [his] veins" (Baldwin 26), eventually transforms into the burning heat of an alchemist's refining fire that transmutes base metal into gold, thus inspiring the narrator to experience a sort of communion with his brother. He says it best: "Sonny's fingers filled the air with life, his life. But that life contained so many others. And Sonny went all the way back, he really began with the spare, flat statement of the opening phrase of the song. Then he began to make it his. ... I seemed to hear with what burning he had made it his, with what burning we had yet to make it ours, how we could cease lamenting. Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did" (Baldwin 51).

Third developing paragraph: In this musical baptism by fire, Sonny, like a holy priest, annoints anyone willing to listen to the story of his having suffered a lonely childhood--one of "privacy" like his dead dad (Baldwin 34)--and the loss of his child-like innocence that Sonny's parents, or at least his mother, tried to preserve in the lives of him and his brother. As the narrator notes in recollection of faraway days when he and Sonny used to sit in the living room on a "Sunday afternoon, say, when the old folks were talking after the big Sunday dinner" (Baldwin 34): "The child knows that they won't talk any more because if he knows too much about what's happened to them, he'll know too much too soon, about what's going to happen to him" (Baldwin 34-35). Indeed, Sonny is not the only one whose innocence was lost in face of the harshities of existence. He shares in a history of sadness and tragedy with his Mother whose husband turned alcoholic in reaction to the death of his brother--Sonny's uncle--by a group of drunken, white hit-and-run drivers. And as we learn towards the middle of the story, Sonny also shares in the suffering of his older brother. In lamenting the loss of his Gracie to an asthmatic attack spurred on by polio, the older brother, in truly empathetic fashion, states, "My trouble made his [i.e. Sonny's] real."

Concluding paragraph (5th in all) with some final statements, emphasizing, without restating, my thesis idea of reconciliation and restoration through music: And so it is through Sonny's desire to share his pain with his elder brother by seven years that the two are ultimately reunited as their mother hoped they would when she warned the aloof older son to "let him [i.e. Sonny] know you's there" (Baldwin 37). It isn't until after years of estrangement that the older brother completes that simple task that requires him to merely listen, if not understand. By doing so, Sonny paradoxically becomes the wiser, he becomes the prophetic healer who, by expressing his passion in music, opens up his brother's heart to allow room for compassion and to tell his own story--a feat that, in the end, begins the process of healing between brothers and helps them to let go of all those painful memories of their shared past. Like Isaiah, Sonny successfully takes out of his own and his brother's hands the "cup of trembling," which glows like that smooth concoction of milk and scotch atop his piano--that instrument of peace that instills in the two brothers strength enough to no more drink of that cup of trembling again.


Bro. Robert Peach said...
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Bro. Robert Peach said...
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Bro. Robert Peach said...
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peter sismour said...

The Need for Acceptance

In “Sonny’s Blues”, I believe that the main theme is acceptance. Early and often we seem to get an idea of the narrator’s displeasure with his brother’s choices throughout his life. When the excerpt, “For while the tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard.”, is brought up, it furthermore proves that through all of the triteness of life we must continue to observe related occurrences with an open mind to learn and grow from these experiences.
The narrator goes on to mention that through continuous recollection of how we “suffer” and are “delighted” that there isn’t another tale of growth to begin with, saying, “There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.” I see this as the narrator shedding light on his own situation. For so long he has disowned his brother because of his faults, but now, finally, through his perseverance as the “light” in the “darkness” he can come to accept and acknowledge Sonny as his brother and each of them may unite with each other.
Keeping all of the story’s conflicts and situations in mind, from his brother’s arrest and rehab to the death of his daughter Grace, due to polio, we learn to grow from refelection on all of our experiences. Sometimes we experience similar situations and from our development from the past we are able to familiarize ourselves and respond better having dealt with these affairs before. Take our narrator for example; it is only after he loses his daughter that he is finally able to look past his brother’s wrongs and to help him heal. All along, Sonny has been looking to reconcile with any and everyone for his errors and be accepted once again because he knows that he cannot repair his life by himself. When the narrator finally comes to the realization that he is needed, he reunites with his brother and welcomes him back to help him pull through. As the reader, we ourselves must learn from this, that experience a similar situation over again may give us the opportunity to make amends for our own past faults.

Jim Limegrover said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Limegrover said...

“Sonny’s Blues” has multiple characters and themes that unite and draw apart the characters. The main characters, the unnamed narrator and Sonny, have an awkward relationship with one another and struggle to make amends. Sonny’s decision to play the blues and the drugs that may entail, to ease Sonny’s suffering, isn’t approved of by his brother. The narrator finds comfort in Sonny’s blues and talent, as does Sonny when he receives his brother’s unspoken approval at the bar and in that they both triumph.
The brotherly feud is made clear very early on in the book. In the beginning the narrator sees a boy that reminds him of Sonny. Realizing its not, but a boy they each knew from the past now grown up, he expresses his feelings, “But now, abruptly, I hated him. I couldn’t stand the way he looked at me, partly like a dog, partly like a cunning child.” This explains how, when the narrator sees someone like Sonny, he immediately hates him, like a dog. This brotherly feud, at the beginning, sets the tone for the rest of the story. It appears again in the strained conversation between them after Sonny reveals to the narrator that he wants to play jazz. The tension seems to build from their conversation, “He lit the cigarette and nodded, watching me through the smoke. ‘ I just wanted to see if I’d have the courage to smoke in front of you.’ He grinned and blew a great cloud of smoke to the ceiling. ‘It was easy.’ He looked at my face. ‘Come on, now. I bet you was smoking at my age, tell the truth.’ I didn’t say anything but the truth was on my face, and he laughed. But now there was something very strained in his laugh. ‘Sure. And I bet that ain’t all you was doing.’ He was frightening me a little. ‘Cut the crap,’ I said. ‘We already decided that you was going to go and live at Isabel’s. Now what’s got into you all of a sudden? ‘You decided it,’ he pointed out. ‘I didn’t decide nothing.” Sonny having to have the courage to smoke in front of his bother and his laugh of fear shows the distance in the brothers. The narrator decided what Sonny’s going to do because he disagrees with his lifestyle, mainly, jazz. It frightens the narrator of the decision his brother wants to make. The decision is that Sonny wants to play jazz and in order to do that he takes drugs.
Sonny’s drug abuse comes from his need to not “suffer”. He talks about the woman singing in front of the barbecue joint, “‘her voice reminded me a minute of what heroin feels like sometimes- when its in your veins” and goes on to say, “ listening to that women sing, it struck me all of a sudden how much suffering must have had to go through-to sing like that. Its repulsive to think you have to suffer that much.” The narrator doesn’t want to see his brother kill himself avoiding suffering. This parallels the suffering that of his daughter, “She died of polio and she suffered.” He says that is inevitable and he should just take it. If giving up the blues is the price then so be it. But he doesn’t realize that his brother uses jazz and music like a drug. Like the lady in the street singing the blues give him that feeling. For him not to suffer is to play music and he finds that out in the last scene.
In that last scene the two brothers find something out about each other that, while maybe not totally fixing their relationship, but making it better. Sonny’s is glad to see his brother acknowledge his dream of a blues musician. While the narrator sees how the blues are Sonny’s substitute for drugs and it looks like he might never go back to them. Together in the bar, they coalesce as brothers. Their togetherness is a triumph of emotion and family love.
The story of “sonny’s Blues” is a complicated on with drugs, death, family issues and music. But I also believe its one with togetherness, acceptance, morals and finding strength in others. In one theme the characters are brought together, the blues. It’s what, maybe, stops Sonny's avoidance of suffering, brings the brothers together and each find unity in taking notice in what they have done well. They hear what always must be heard between them, brotherly music and harmony.

Mike said...

Finding One's Place

“For while the tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard.” This passage relates to the overall theme of “Sonny’s Blues”, finding one’s place. It explains that the tales within ones life such as suffering, accomplishing, and happiness happens frequently. Even though these events happen to everyone, they must be told in order for a type of emotional healing or an attribute to ones accomplishments to take place.
In Sonny’s Blues, Sonny has two types of “drugs”, one good and one bad. The good drug is Sonny’s music, Jazz. The bad drug, however, is heroin, a common substance used among Harlem residents during this time period. Sonny used Jazz as his accomplishment high, a good high. Sonny used heroin as a bad high, an escape from his troubles such as not attending school and his disagreements with his brother.
Sonny knew that he wanted to become an accomplished Jazz pianist. Sonny told his brother after both of their parents passed away and he was not very supportive to his dreams. Sonny’s brother thought that Sonny should pursue an average career, such as teaching, and live an average working man life. Sonny believed that his brother had thought that all of his troubles came from wanting to be a musician, which is shown in this quote, “I don’t want you to think it had anything to do with me being a musician.”
Once Sonny was released from prison, he began to communicate more and more with his brother. He told his brother about heroin in a non-direct way. This relates back to how one’s tale always must be heard. At the end, Sonny even invites his brother to a jazz performance that he is performing in later in the night. When they arrive, Sonny’s brother notices the warmth in the room that erupts when Sonny enters. Sonny’s fellow musicians greet his brother with open hearts. Sonny’s brother takes a seat in the corner by himself and realizes Sonny is a talented and passionate jazz musician. He orders Sonny a scotch and Sonny flashes him a smile when it is placed onto his piano.
Throughout the story, Sonny faces many difficulties and hardships. “For while the tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard.” Sonny triumphed through his music but faced hardship through his drug addiction. Sonny does not stay in contact with his brother early on in his journey because of his brother’s disapproval of his music. However, near the end, Sonny and his brother begin to communicate like brothers should and become the brothers that they never were. In essence, Sonny’s brother helped him come to terms with his problems of addiction as well as his triumph in jazz.

Garrett Lynn said...

Baldwin’s quote, “For while the tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard.”, tells of the need for the expression of our personal experiences and happenings in our lives. If our stories are bottled up inside, unable to bet set free, emotions and actions may run wild. In relation to the story Sonny’s Blues, Sonny is expressing his stories and feelings in two different ways. One being a self destructive and sorrowful form, and the other being a wise and productive form. The two tie together in such a way that one helps get rid of the other, which enables him to be more positive and, in a sense, free.

Sonny has a difficult problem with heroin that is leading him down a path that neither he, nor his brother want him to follow. This, unfortunately, is one of Sonny’s expressive actions. He is trying to rid himself of the pain that boils inside of him, but ultimately brings more upon himself and his family. His growing addiction allows his troubles and anguish to go away for a moment but knows that when he comes down from his high, he must face his fears and eventually himself but also knows that he cannot face them alone.

Fortunately, at the end of the story Sonny does find himself…in his love for jazz. After having a run-in with the law and being forced into rehab, he came to realize the severity of his situation and the need to revert his life. He comes up with the idea to play jazz one day while speaking with his brother. Sonny makes a commitment to his brother and himself that he will come through and be able to break the addiction. When Sonny plays, he seems to transform into a different person. He is calm and can forget about his troubles and faults. Playing jazz on his piano allows Sonny to cope with himself, and as stated earlier, tell his story. He and his brother feel a weight lifted off their shoulders at the conclusion of the story because they both know inside that Sonny has persevered and overcome the enormous challenge that was placed in front of him.

Everyone can relate to Sonny in a way because everyone at some time has hit a low point in their life and knows the frustration and pain that comes along with it. If there is no way to let those feelings out, then it is impossible for anyone to pull through and overcome their personal obstacles. That is why setting forth your opinions and openly expressing them is key to living well.

asleepnotdead said...

Chris Ranallo
Bro. Robert Peach, FSC
English 165/Writng the Essay
September 25 2008

Why We Must Write Our Experiences
“For while the tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never news, it always must be heard”. When the narrator of “Sonny’s Blues” finally acknowledges that his brother, Sonny, is in prison and needs his help he writes Sonny a letter. In the letter he describes the death of his daughter to Sonny.
The narrator writes his letter because it is a form of grieving. He is getting the emotions and sorrow out of his system by putting pen to paper. We do things like this to help better express ourselves, and share with others our sometimes agonizing sometimes wonderful feelings. We do it to show others that they are not alone, that as human beings we all face grief, sorrow, happiness, and every other human emotion at some point in our lives.
This is seen best in “Sonny’s Blues” when a correspondence begins begin the narrator and Sonny. It begins of course with the narrator writing about the death of his daughter, but eventually leads to a bonding of the brothers that had been missing for quite a while. Through their letters to each other they begin to come closer than they had been most of their lives.

Liam said...

Liam Halferty
Bro. Robert Peach, FSC
ENG 165 / Writing the Essay
25 September 2008

Sonny’s Blues: The Importance of Family and Music in Sonny’s Life

In the story of Sonny’s Blues written by James Baldwin, the narrator states, “For while the tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted and how me may triumph is never new, it always must be heard.” This quote notes that all of the instances that occur in our lives whether good or bad have previously happened to others in the pass and will continue to occur in the future. This aspect includes emotions felt and the thoughts that cross our very mind. The quotation also tells that we must express our emotions and other things that occur in our lives, even though someone has already dealt with the same emotion or has been in the same position in the past. History repeats itself, but we must express our own emotions and feelings to become part of that history. There are many ways in which we are able to express our feelings, mostly having to do with the arts. This includes music and writing. Sonny expresses himself through jazz music while his brother, the narrator, expresses himself by stating his point of view of his own life and the life of his brother through the art of writing.
Although it is not clarified throughout the course of the story exactly what his name is, the narrator, we as readers do know that he is very close to Sonny and is able to understand how he feels. By this we essentially get to know not only the narrator’s thoughts on certain things, but Sonny’s point of view as well. The narrator is well aware that Sonny lives his life freely, and lives his life day-by-day making decisions not really thinking about his future. This lifestyle is very contradictory to the life in which the narrator leads a safe, more relaxed life that involves very few risky decisions. For example, the narrator never got caught up in drug-use, but Sonny did in fact use drugs and therefore became addicted to them as well. The narrator never felt the need to use them, because he knew that in the long-run it would do nothing but hurt him. Meanwhile Sonny did not think of the consequence of using drugs, he was more concerned for the short period of relief from his everyday troubles. These troubles can also be accredited to his poor decision-making in the past. While the narrator realizes his safe lifestyle will lead to success, which it does, the decisions that Sonny make only create a mediocre life, but that is the consequence for making poor life decisions. He realizes this about his life while in jail, and tells his brother about it through a letter.
While in jail, Sonny writes a letter to his brother telling him that he has realized that the choices he has made in the past have in no way helped him and have only made his life worse. He parallels him making poor decisions with digging a hole, stating, “You don’t know how much I needed to hear from you. I wanted to write you many a time but I dug how much I must have hurt you and so I didn’t write. But now I feel like a man who’s been trying to climb out of some deep, real deep and funky hole and just saw the sun up there, outside. I got to get outside.” In this quote, Sonny is explaining that he realizes he has made many decisions that have not only hurt him but hurt his family as well, and that he is sorry for that. He states that his family means a great amount to him and he does not want to ruin his relationship with them anymore than he already has by making more bad decisions. The metaphor of digging himself a hole is commonly used, but in Sonny’s case, he has really dug himself a hole, the hole that is his life. He has found himself institutionalized, but it may be beneficial to him, because it gave him time to realize that the things he is involved in are wrong, including drug-use. Sonny also refers to seeing the sun when getting closer and closer to climbing out of the hole. The “sun” in which he uses to fuel his recovery, or to climb out of the hole, is music. Sonny loves to play music, and it essentially is his “anti-drug.” Music is one of the “bright spots” in Sonny’s life, and it is one of the only things that please him for an extended period of time, unlike drugs. Later on in the letter, Sonny tells his brother, “I don’t want you to think it had anything to do with me being a musician.” He says this because he does not want his brother to believe that him leading a risky life and making poor decisions that made him suffer in the long-run were linked to his love for music. He does this because he knows himself that music is truly what he loves most. In his realization of his own faults and mishaps, and the importance of his family and music, Sonny becomes more mature while imprisoned.
While in jail Sonny realizes the fact that music and his family are the two most important aspects in his life, and he wants his brother to know that too. Through all of his suffering due to his poor decision-making, Sonny still knows that he can still achieve what he strives for knowing that in doing so he has his music and his family to guide him through. We the readers never know what path Sonny chooses, to continue on the journey to a better life or back to his old ways, using drugs and making other life-changing decisions for the worse. We just know that in whatever Sonny does he is aware that music and family will always be part of his life.

Chris said...

Struggles and Triumphs

Everybody has there struggles and everybody has there triumphs. With these two things comes a responsibility, a responsibility to talk about it whether it is reminding yourself, learning from them, or even telling others about them so that they make the same mistake. “Sonny’s Blues”, a book by James Baldwin, shows us how to use all three

The narrator is a perfect example of the first one. He is constantly thinking of Sonny and his struggles. From the beginning of the book you can see this. He begins the book by talking about how he can’t believe what happened and that is all that is in his mind. Throughout the story he is continually reminded of his brother. This constant reminder is what finally helps him understand his brother. When his daughter Grace dies he can finally understand Sonny’s struggles and is able to reconcile with him and form the relationship that Sonny always wanted and needed.

Sonny is an example of learning from mistakes. As we hear throughout the story Sonny struggles with a lot of things. Sometimes they are so overwhelming that he looks to drugs as a way to get that little high. However there is one thing that he realizes can make him happy and isn’t bad for him. Blues is his anti-drug. Sonny is able to look back at his experiences of getting arrested and is able to find something that can truly make him happy. Without learning from this mistake he could still have been shooting up and running into trouble with the law.

Finally the last example of telling others about them is cleverly portrait in the story itself. The story shows how the struggles of one person can lead to other people’s struggles. Baldwin is probably using past experiences he had to convey a message to all of us, whether it is through Sonny’s addiction, the narrators unwillingness to reconcile, or the mothers inability to explain what happened to there father. Everybody can get something out of this story. You can get something as big as the afore mentioned or just a little lesson such as putting family first.

Hopefully everyone got something out of this story. I know that I have found through this story a new outlook on how to treat others. Maybe if a friend seems upset instead of saying get over it lets go do something, ask them how they are. Sometimes just talking about it is the best healer. It is unhealthy to keep trouble bottled up inside and like Sonny and his brother talking things out could even make your friendship stronger.

Matt Donahue said...

Matt Donahue
Bro. Robert Peach, FSC
English 165/Writing the Essay
September 25, 2008

In "Sonny's Blues" the most important theme is the suffering in which people go through. Always in life there is something new to learn. No matter how much people know, one can always grasp more information. Although some aspects in life may not be new, people forget, so the repeats in life must be heard over and over again.
In "Sonny's Bules" we see many people suffering, from Sunny to the narrator, to their mother and even to the father who is deceased. One resolution to the suffering is playing music, and that is just what Sunny does as the short story progresses. In Sonny's case, music is his religion and most of all his passion. He feels that playing music is his purpose in life and essentially that is what keeps him living. Sonny's escape of suffering was unlike his fathers, who drank away his life. Sonny's father was unforgiving after the accident of his brother. "I no you never saw your daddy cry. But I did-many a time, through all theses years." Sonny's father never got over hi brothers death and therefore suffered his entire life.
Clearly throughout this novel suffering is portrayed in every character. Not only is suffering the theme in "Sonny's Blues", but some say it is the theme in our lives. Everyone suffers and this is just one story of how and why suffering happens.

danshea said...

“For while the tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never new. It always must be heard.”
This quote in ‘Sonny’s Blues’ ties into the main theme of the story in that it explains much of the conflicting thoughts of the narrator and Sonny. The theme of the story that jumps out to me is simply live the life that you want to live to make yourself happy.
Sonny of course in his life has experienced much suffering and he thought that everything was all about him. He only seemingly cared for himself and focused on his own problems. He thought it was only him who experienced suffering and that his brother was the only one who could see it in him.
The narrator’s view on life was more conservative. He was living the safe and unharmed life. Sonny didn’t feel that he had actually experienced true suffering, which is why he considers his brother to be ignorant of his life. Likewise, his brother thought that Sonny didn’t understand him or the type of life he was living.
When Sonny says in his letter to his brother; ‘I don’t want you to think it had anything to do with me being a musician’ it seems as though Sonny is actually in denial and is scared to tell his brother what he is going to be. His brothers thoughts on him being a musician are that he will never be able to make a living and that it is almost a fool’s job.
This quote summarizes the story in a way. It describes both the ignorance of the narrator and Sonny. The story’s complexity with different distractions in both of their lives adds a strange element, especially the learning of their uncle’s tragic death. In the end, their brotherhood and reuniting is the true triumph for both of them.

Tyler McDaniel said...

Tyler McDaniel
Bro. Robert Peach, FSC
ENG 165 / Writing the Essay
24 September 2008

In Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” two brothers deal with life struggles and they overcome their struggles through music. Sonny deals with a drug issue and his brother deals with loosing sonny to his addiction. Their stories are common in toady’s hectic world, but even tho they go through these struggles as many other people have gone through and dealt with. Their story is basically the same but their story has a different view and must be told to learn from it. As Baldwin said in Sonny’s Blues “for while the tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard”, he is saying that the story we may be telling might not be new it must be told to learn from it. Sonny becomes an addict and goes through some tough time but he reconciles with his brother and uses jazz to escape and overcome his addiction.
Sonny’s addiction destroys the relationship between himself and his brother. The brother does not speak to sonny for along time until sonny is arrested for drug related reasons. It brings them together and the start their journey to overcome their struggles together. Sonny uses jazz to archive that high the dugs give him. The brother is skeptical about sonny staying clean and does not trust his brother. The brother doesn’t see what his brother gets out of jazz. He goes with sonny to see sonny play at a jazz at a club. When he sees how the musicians put their soul into it and he sees how his brother can escape his struggles in life though jazz. Seeing this he overcomes his lack of trust in sonny, and sonny over comes his drug addiction through his love of jazz and his bettered relationship with his brother. Their tattered relationship was mended and they can move forward in life together.
“Sonny’s Blues” is complex and covers many different issues like drug abuse, losing of loved ones, relationships, music and, forgiveness. Sonny uses blues to express his feelings and they bring him and his brother together again. Instead of turning to drugs and uses blues to escape and give him that high. I feel that music is a very powerful tool it can bring people together like sonny and his brother. Also music is a great way to express what you are feeling. Music played a big part in “Sonny’s Blues” and it also plays a huge part in today’s world.

eddie said...

Two Brothers Linked by Suffering

"Forwhilethe tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard." This quote is from James Baldwi's "Sonny's Blues" and is a very powerfully true statement. It means that everyone in the history of the world has lived a life full of suffering and happiness. Also, it is important for us to know that no matter how bad something gets, we are not the first ones to experience this, and by knowing this we can turn our suffering into triumphs. We are never the first nor the last to experience something. In my view, the real triumphs in life are made when someone overcomes a period of suffering. I think the quote directly relates to the theme of the story, suffering can yield good.
"I was sure the first time Sonny had horse, he couldn't have been much older than these boys" (Baldwin). This quote is from the unnamed narrator and Sonny's brother, and it is important because we find out that Sonny has had a drug problem for a long time. "Sonny's Blues" begins with us learning that Sonny has been arrested for drug charges and he has been sent to rehab. Throughout the story we learn of Sonny's longtime drug addiction and his life's struggles. We learn that him and his brother have a strained relationship. When Sonny gets out of rehab, he goes to live with his brother, and that is where we learn about Sonny's interest, possible obsession, with jazz music. He wants to be a famous jazz pianist, but his brother looks down on this and calls it immature thinking. But Sonny had played the piano alot, and he became a very skilled. I consider this a triumph because Sonny took his past sufferings and addiction and turned it into a positive thing, music. Jazz is Sonny's form of art, it is where he can express himself and let all of his suffering out through music. It became his religion.
We never know our narrator's name,but we know he is Sonny's brother. Sonny and the narrator have had a strained relationship because of Sonny's addiction, "I haven't seen Sonny in over a year..." (Baldwin). I blame this faltering relationship on the fact that the narrator never seems to have the same amount of suffering that Sonny has had. Since he hasnt suffered as much as Sonny, he doesnt understand what Sonny is going through, and basically doesnt care. Then, in the story, we find that his daughter dies. This is one of the first times that major tragedy has struck him so close to his heart. After he dwells on the pain from his loss, he has a revelation into Sonny's life of suffering. He understands what his brother is going through, to an extant. He feels that pain, therefore there isnt this barrior between the two brothers anymore. This lack of understanding between the two was tearing them apart, but they fought through it, and became close again.
Both of these stories obviously tell tales of great pain and suffering, but they also show terrific triumphs. Sonny's drug addiction turns into masterful music full of emotion from the artist's heart. The narrator's loss of his daughter knocks down a barrior between his brother, and they become close. The opening quote states that these tales of triumph and suffering always must be heard. We should all remember this because if we hear these tales of suffering from the people around us we can learn that we are all linked by suffering, and maybe we can use this revelation and create something positive, like a stronger relationship, just as the two brothers did in "Sonny's Blues".

Jake Meyer said...

Jake Meyer
Bro. Robert Peach, FSC
ENG 165 / Writing the Essay
25 September 2008

Everyone suffers, for it is a human burden to suffer. The stories people told throughout the ages always had the elements of happiness, triumph, and suffering. These stories were passed down from generation to generation because they were entertaining, informative, and important. People found out that they could identify with these stories even though they were from a different time period because they identified with the three story elements.

Each story of suffering is important and should be heard. Each of these stories is unique and each can teach the reader to better understand the writer and themselves. “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin is also a tale of suffering. Both the narrator of the story and Sonny himself have stories of suffering that they must pass on. The only way for both characters to overcome their suffering is to fully tell the story of their suffering. They both open up in different ways but they soon find themselves directly connected to each other through their bond of suffering.

Sonny spends most of his life trying to avoid the suffering that plagues the city of Harlem where he is raised. Sonny tries many things to keep from suffering and dying inside. Over the course of the story, Sonny gets more and more desperate trying to find a way to expel his pain.
The narrator of the story deals oppositely with suffering then his brother, Sonny does. The narrator bottles his feelings up. He knows that Sonny is a cause of some of his suffering so he exiles him from his life. This act leads Sonny and the narrator on a downward streak eventually leading them together again.

The narrator tries desperately to help Sonny cope with his suffering. Through the discussion, the narrator realizes he is helping himself as well. We can see that when the narrator says, “But there’s no way not to suffer-is there. Sonny?” and Sonny replies, “I believe not. But that’s never stopped anyone from trying.” (Baldwin) The eternal suffering residing in the narrator is finally released after he helps Sonny deal with his pain.

Sonny, having finally made amends with his brother, realizes that he can deal with the pain through music. Sonny’s suffering is expressed through his piano. Both the narrator and Sonny tell their own story of suffering. Their stories are expressed different ways but they still affected the other. Sonny’s blues saved the narrator while the narrator’s experience and help saved Sonny from possible death. Their stories are important, just like all the ones that come before them. Suffering can only be conquered with the help of those who suffer as well. That is why these stories will be remembered and passed down, as all the stories of suffering before it.

Toby Coleman said...

Toby Coleman
Bro. Robert Peach, FSC
ENG 165/Writing the Essay
25 September 2008

“For while the tale of how we suffer
and how we are delighted and how we made
triumph is never new, it always must he heard.”

This quote, to me, is very strong and meaningful. It seems to represent a lot of factual truth. Our feelings would never be new but they do, in fact, have to be heard. I believe they have to be heard to ultimately console us and make us feel better. When things happen to us we feel that it must be heard so people know we are actually going through. Our feelings must be heard in order to keep them unique.
The story is about a boy names Sonny, somebody good who fell in the grip of drugs, particularly heroin. Sonny’s brother, who was never named, tells his brothers story. He starts with his brothers addiction and then moves to the better feeling part of the story. The better part of the story is Sonny’s recovery and his finding of music (blues). Music was Sonny’s way out from all of his evils. Music was his true release.
This story fulfills its accuracy toward the original quote. The story was a way of explaining this quote in its entirety. We had to hear this story in order to understand fully the evils that Sonny has dealt with along with his strong turnaround.

Bro. Robert Peach said...

Akeeme Robinson
Bro. Peach
ENG 165 / Writing the Essay

The Struggle of Reality

In the short story, "Sonny’s Blues," there are several encounters with religion, art and struggle. But the focus is on, “For while the tail of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we triumph is never new, it always must be herd”. Is brought in the story late but has been shown in the story earlier than a person would expect. People would see that in the brother most of the time sonny gets in trouble.

In the reality people would no that struggle isn’t easy and struggle comes in many forms ways and at different times of people life’s. But in the story Sonny’s Blues the brother comes to many different obstacles with himself and family. Especially when his brother goes to jail, for possession of heroin. Because that brings out the truth of reality. And that coming in makes it difficult for him but that doesn’t mean that he was the only one to ever go through it in life. Because his Uncle was also going through just as he did. Also in the text the brother takes a different approach of dealing with his suffering, he uses the art of listening. And he see’s how life is for him in the form of a glass of water when his brother is using art at the end of the story to make it better or expressing life struggles.

The struggle of reality is very harsh and in this story sonny and the brother deals with there struggle very well. And it took Jazz and listening to do it but they made sure that there struggle was not going to stop them from life’s journeys. And now they back with there mother and have a pretty good relation ship with each other.

Corey Kramer said...

The quote "For while the tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard" has mutiple meanings that relate the the story. It relates the the suffering of Sonny and the unknown author through Sonnys drug addiction and the authors loss of his daughter. The quote also says that we need to go through life learning from our mistakes and going into everything open minded.
Throughtout the story, Sonny has two ways to rid his suffering. On throught his drug abuse and the other throught his love for music. Sonny also uses his music as a way to get through his struggles with his brother. Sonnys brother, the unknown author, also goes through a struggle. The loss of his beloved daughter is devastating, but helps the author realize the pain that Sonnys goes through day after day via his drug addiction. This realization helps to ease the tension between the two brothers and helps the author ACCEPT Sonny for who he is and not make sterotypes just because of Sonnys troubles.
For me the theme to this story is acceptance through pain. With the authors loss of his daughter comes to accept Sonny for who he is and not because of what he is involved in. Sonny comes to realize that the only drug that he needs, is his music which allows him to stray from his drug addiction and end his fued with his brother. As the author comes to realize that Sonny is in need of his help, he puts aside his differences and accepts Sonny as his brother and learns to appricaite his music.

lizow said...

All of us have our struggles and our triumphs in life. The main theme to "Sonny's Blues" is the struggle in which everyone goes through in life. Everyone can learn more from the struggles we overcome. Everything we do in life is a learning experience.
In "Sonny's Blues" we see all the characters stuggling with some aspect of their life. Sonny's main stuggle is his drug addiction to heroin. The reason to why he uses the heroin is to get away from his everyday struggles that he cannot overcome. In the concluding parts of the story we see Sonny realize that playing jazz is his anti-drug. He starts realizing that he does not need the drug to get away from the everyday life he struggles with but instead he can do what he loves, play the piano. Sonny overcomes this struggle with heroin that holds him back from his passion.
We all stuggle in life and all we can do is to fight against that struggle and prevail to come out on top. Sonny's Blues is a good theme to which all people should live by, don't every give up yourself.

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