Blues became an addiction to Sonny and this is depicted in the story through the narrator’s voice enabling the readers how it happened. However, the readers are aware that Sonny had a smooth lifestyle. He has been imprisoned before both physically in jail and emotionally through music. He was also a victim of drug abuse something that imprisoned him because it was hard to break through it. Later on, Sonny found a source of salvation which is blues. It became more like a drug to him because it saved his life in different ways. Music became an addiction to him throughout the story which ended up saving him from drug abuse and hopelessness lifestyle.
Some of the ways in which music saved Sonny’s life is that he used it as a way to express his deep thoughts. He also poured out his frustrations into the music providing him with a chance to get redeemed. Sonny used artistic expression which he used to not only redeem himself but also his main audiences. He also used music to immerse himself in music as a way to deal with the tragedies and his family suffering. Regardless of the fact that music could have led him back to using drugs, Sonny decided to hold on to it because he knew it is his way of salvation and expressing what he felt. He could remove all his rage in life through music; it helped him to break loose and become a free person from playing piano and singing.
On the other hand, music saved Sonny from himself even though it was temporary. Music made him happy thus the reason he could play his piano daily from morning to night time which shows that it was some sort of addiction which he had developed. Music also helped Sonny to escape from the horrible surroundings which was full of drugs. He could use music as a leisure which also made him less lonely and bored.
Learning to Listen
The narrator was the big brother to Sonny and he had promised the mother that he will take care of him. However, he never liked his lifestyle especially being addicted to drugs and not going to school. Despite the responsibilities that were bestowed upon him, the narrator did not like the fact that Sonny loved music because he believed that it could lead him into taking drugs which could destroy his life further. According to the narrator, music was among the things that would lead Sonny to drugs (Green, 2015, p.218). Later after talking with Sonny and understanding all he has gone through and the reasons for immersing himself in drugs, the narrator became reminded that he was his brother thus deserved a chance. He also came to realize that he had never been there for him especially during the periods when Sonny required him most. The narrator later decided to keep in touch all the time with the brother after Sonny sent him a moving letter.
He also changed him mind when he first heard Sonny play the piano. The narrator saw the ways in which he played with all the passion which was a clear indication that Sonny was into what he was doing. This enabled him to see the brother different thus stopped lamenting on all the wrong things he had done in the past. He also came to understand all that Sonny had been going through especially after seeing how he connected with other musicians. It is at this period that he also came to the realization that Sonny is an important individual who can change the lives of people (Green, 2015). The narrator also came to realize that the only way in which the brother can be free is when the family allows him to be who he wants. At this point, he managed to listen to Sonny’s wants and desires and try as much as possible to help him.
Symbolism of Music
Music in the story symbolizes so many things. Music can also be related to the black heritage. Sonny was in love with jazz music which is always connected to the black heritage. Drugs, gang life and imprisonment are a strong connection to the black heritage and all this is related to music in the story. The narrator had feared that music would lead Sonny back to taking drugs and this is a clear relation to the black heritage. Sonny’s hero and role model Charlie Parker was a drug addict who ended up dying at an early age which is typical to what many black Americans face in the US (Reilly, 1997). On the other hand, Sonny used music as a way to express himself which is radical jazz form currently. Many jazz musicians who are black have used their talents to express themselves in a pure way or speak out against everything that they are experiencing in the society. Sonny decided to compare the musicians he loved from the past to the current generation. The rigidity is expression in jazz music no longer existence among jazz musicians. This can be related to the black heritage whereby in the past, the people of color did not have any opportunity in the society but currently things have changed to the better for them.
Music can also be compared to Christ because it is the one thing that saved Sonny from all the bad things that he was facing in life. Despite the fact that he had loved music before, it is later in life that he really came to realize how much important music is to him. There are people in life like Sonny who acknowledge the existence of Christ and are aware that he is the savior but are caught up with things in life such as drugs. It is later that they came to seek for salvation by holding on to Christ. When the narrator saw how Sonny was playing the piano, he changed his mind about him which can be compared to some religious revival. In the end, Sonny finds redemption from the brother and this is facilitated by his love for music.
Green, B. (2015). Session 3 Inquiry: Rudolfo Anaya and James Baldwin.
Reilly, JM. (1997). “Sonny’s Blues”: James Baldwin’s image of black community. St. Louis: St.Louis University