Sure enough, a good piece of writing must have the plot that narrates an intriguing story, which could give the chance to evoke critical responses in readers; the short story needs to incorporate an organic development that many critics qualify as the key to transporting readers to the author’s world as well enabling them to intuit specific clues that he/she might initially plant. Speculating upon the short stories that deserve a strong recommendation, it is definitely worth making mention of James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues that first emerged in the short story collection Going to Meet the Man. Of course, the author here puts an emphasis on flashback techniques that actually adds depth, complexity, and breadth to a real literary masterpiece. Throughout the short story released in 1965, it becomes apparent that Baldwin aims to manipulate the plot and unearth a profoundly-complex origin of his protagonist.
As the short unfurls, Baldwin introduces the narrator who sheds the light on strained circumstances facing his younger brother Sonny. Specifically speaking, the first-person narrative style that the author makes a stress upon constitutes a high-octane story full of intriguing insights into a real-life situation. The narrator accidentally reads in the newspaper about Sonny who has been recently arrested. In regard to relationships between the narrator and his younger brother, it can be said with certainty that the two were actually at loggerheads over their attitudes towards the values that should matter the most in life; it is imperative to understand that Sonny’s involvement in a drug bust contributed negatively to what the narrator felt about his brother. In other words, their relationships took a turn for worse. Despite the narrator’s reluctance to sympathize with Sonny’s arrest, he fails to get his mind off the younger brother. At first, the narrator appears to make no attempt to write to Sonny. Yet, after the narrator’s daughter dies from polio-like illness, he becomes more predisposed to get in touch with the younger brother; the narrator demonstrates his desire to write to Sonny, which in turn gave impetus to the revival of their fraternal relationship. Surely, Grace’s death must have motivated Sonny to elucidate the major reason why he ended up this way. Significantly, Sonny’s Blues “contains a portrait of an artist who having integrated personal shadow is able to integrate suffering caused by cultural shadow” (Martinez 7). The author puts a lot of effort into allowing the intended audience (young people) to go into detail on whether Sonny does posit as shallow and emotionless. In reality, careful reading that necessarily involves asking numerous questions in text gives the chance to reveal a truly sophisticated nature of Sonny.
Contemplating upon Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues, one cannot but give the author credit for making the audience unwilling to conceive of reality as it may seem at first sight. To put it in layman terms, the short story teaches readers to be more judgmental than descriptive in their initial impressions. Moving through the story that seems to keep readers involved until the end, special attention needs to be drawn to the manner in which America’s majestic writer manages to unravel the array of uncertainties in respect of Sonny’s true nature. Yes, an unprecedented interplay and blurring between the story’s plot and each reader’s life scenario give way to getting to know all the challenges that Sonny was forced to pass through. As the short story Sonny’s Blues progresses, there is much to tell about Sonny’s other side, the one that the narrator stubbornly refused to take into consideration. As many critics confirm, Baldwin should be viewed as the novelist whose “literature was created upon the onset of the postmodern era” (Knežević 41) and who came up with a new approach to help readers debunk some overstated claims. In fact, the author intends to lead readers through an examination of faulty ideas that many adhere to on daily basis. To put it another way, Baldwin aims to put an end to the tendency tagged as judging-others. The thing is that judging Sonny, for instance, does not define who he is afterwards. Although the character demonstrates a profane and frivolous lifestyle, readers familiarize themselves with the other side of his life afterwards. This in turn calls into question that initial skeptical views of Sonny’s sets of beliefs made sense. Despite Sonny’s overwhelming desire “to be a musician” (Baldwin 133) and longing for freedom that many can see as the signs of light-mindedness, the character does possess an inner world full of valuable things. Unlike the narrator, who draws special attention to remaining a law-abiding citizen, his younger brother can be identified as seeking to break deeply-seated societal stereotypes. It is not an exaggeration to say that Sonny’s marginal life concept is far from being fully explored; notably, the character should not be underestimated from the perspective of the hidden self that he did not want to show to others.
On the whole, Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues that largely gravitates towards Sonny in an attempt “to climb of some deep, real deep and funky hole” (Baldwin 127) remains relevant today; and it is particularly about a striking resemblance with what trials that the masses are to undergo these days that makes the short story worth close reading.
- Baldwin, James. Going to Meet the Man. New York, NY: Vintage Books. Print.
- Knežević, Mirjana. The Inheritance of Naturalism in James Baldwin’s Short Fiction.
Linguistics and Literature, 9.1 (2011): 41 – 46. Print.
- Martinez, Inez. “Sonny’s Blues” and Cultural Shadow. Journal of Jungian Scholarly Studies,
3.2 (2007): 1-8. Print.