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Published: 16-10-2019

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The Effects of Light in Sonny's Blues, a Short Story by James Baldwin

Light transforms, destroys, and elevates experiences and thoughts throughout ‘Sonny’s Blues’, by James Baldwin. Sonny and his brother, the narrator, grew up in the ‘dark’ atmosphere of Harlem and its housing projects and deteriorating, drug-ridden streets. The method of growing up, of losing their parents, and of living amidst each light and darkness had shaped each the narrator and Sonny. Baldwin makes use of light, and its counter, darkness, to present the challenges and hopes of the adult and boyhood days of the protagonists. If there is a single line that summarizes the point that Baldwin conveys via this imagery, it is, “All that hatred and misery and enjoy. It’s a wonder it does not blow the avenue apart” (pg 639). By way of Sonny and his brother, we can see that light and dark can be put together, like hatred and enjoy. Light and dark reflect the basic human knowledge they are primeval aspects of the globe that have always contrasted, but in this story, Baldwin brings them together.

The narrator’s childhood in Harlem was an knowledge that influenced him to be a teacher, and gave Sonny to have the desire to get as far away from his hometown as feasible this can be observed by way of the use of light and darkness. In the initial passage, every thing surrounding the boys whilst growing up is darkness. Their lives only lead into the darkness. The films are a literal darkness that aids them escape their lives for a few hours, but in the finish only make the literal darkness of life in Harlem even deeper. This same views on life in Harlem have been echoed in the Narrator’s childhood, “And when light fills the space, the youngster is filled with darkness…moved a little closer to the darkness outside…what the old folks have been speaking about” (pg 623). By means of the passage, and this quote, we see that the common view is that light -like the movies pointed out in the very first passage- only deludes a youngster, drawing him away from the harsh reality that will be his life, which “old folks” have knowledgeable currently. In response to this, the narrator tries to get rid of himself mentally from his environment by becoming a math teacher, by getting married, and even by cutting off his brother for a few years. He believes that if he ignores his inside, he can escape the darkness but rather, he brings far more darkness in. Sonny scares the narrator since he fluctuates in between “bright and open” (pg 613) and “all the light in his face..gone out” (pg 614). Sonny is connected to his lights and darknesses by way of drugs, and then through music these are both parts of Sonny’s life that the narrator cannot understand or accept for the majority of the story.

The narrator’s view of light and dark culminates in the second passage, and right after that point. It is an epiphany for the narrator, and for Sonny. The narrator fears for Sonny, for his “perishing inflame”, for his inner fire to take more than and burn him out, like what practically occurred with his heroin addictions. He comes to comprehend that light and darkness exist together in the real planet, with diverse drawbacks and benefits, just as they each exist inside Sonny. The narrator starts by being downright petrified of the light, and when Sonny and his fellow musicians cross into the light, it is like a barrier is broken in his mind that makes it possible for the narrator to finally understand. He ultimately saw Sonny satisfied, and saw him grinning. He saw Sonny as a god, a creator of his personal world. Regardless of all of the darkness that Sonny has inside of him, and in his previous, he is in a position to embrace the light and not be afraid. Sonny was “so touched he could have cried” in this moment and he “put his hand to his heart” it is the culmination of two emotional responses, crying is combined with enjoy for what he does. Even the keys of the piano are light and dark and lie subsequent to every other. The piano is gorgeous and actual and emotional with all of its lights and darknesses, the same goes for Sonny’s music, and the same goes for his and the narrator’s lives.

The symbol of light develops as the brothers start to comprehend every single other and themselves a lot more. Sonny started by “…trying to climb out of some deep, actual deep, and funky hole and just saw the sun up there, outside.” (pg 618). The narrator began by seeing “the darkness increasing against the windowpanes” (pg 622) for the duration of his childhood. In the two passages, we see that the narrator originally saw darkness everywhere, but by way of Sonny’s music and true emotion, the narrator starts to comprehend that light will not cause anybody to “perish”. Rather, some light- and some pure optimism- is portion of life.

The use of light and darkness draws to a conclusion on the final web page Sonny’s music was “burning”, and yet “trouble stretched above [them], longer than the sky”. The final line portrays Sonny as “glowing”. A man who clearly had significantly darkness in his life, and who will possibly have comparable darknesses in his future, nonetheless has the prospective and talent to “glow”. Dark and light are the struggles of life that are depicted in “Sonny’s Blues” from this we see that light can be too extreme, and darkness can be the reality that should be accepted. They exist with each other and balance each and every other: 1 cannot live in pure light, as Sonny attempted through his music, heroin, and desire to transcend 1 can't live in deep darkness, as the narrator tried by means of stifling his emotions. Sonny undoubtedly did have his darknesses, and the narrato had his lights.
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