Symbolism in "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin

1286 words 6 pages
Symbolism in “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin In James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” the reader meets Sonny, a recovering addict, and his older brother, a high school teacher. Although these two brothers have completely different lives and personalities, the author’s use of symbolism brings them more tightly together like a real family. Baldwin uses symbols such as ice, lightness and darkness, and jazz music to add more depth and meaning to “Sonny’s Blues.” People usually think of ice or the cold as being bitter and causing discomfort. When it is cold outside, people wear jackets to eliminate the bitterness of the cold. In “Sonny’s Blues,” Sonny uses heroine to escape the discomfort of the reality that is his life. Heroine is Sonny’s …show more content…

Baldwin’s use of the symbol of darkness here adds depth to the fact that the children do not view life in the same ways that adults do because children have just started their lives while the adults have already lived most of their lives. On the other hand, light symbolizes all of the optimistic and hopeful components that are a part of life. Sometimes lightness is used to symbolize salvation. Baldwin uses light to denote the good things that to Sonny. For instance, at the end of the story as Sonny plays with his jazz band in a small club, the narrator says, “There is not any other tale to tell, it is the only light we have got in all this darkness” (70). The “tale” is the tale of what the blue is all about that Creole tells as he plays his fiddle. Baldwin uses this statement to add meaning to Sonny’s life by showing that music is his light. Through his music, Sonny escapes from all the darkness and suffering of his reality; jazz music is Sonny’s salvation. James Baldwin uses light to show warmth and hopefulness in the characters’ lives. Jazz music in “Sonny’s Blues” is symbolic in different ways to the characters. The narrator thinks that jazz music is “beneath Sonny” (59). He links jazz music with the kind of people who are not serious about life. To the narrator, jazz music symbolizes Sonny’s addiction to heroine. Baldwin uses the jazz music to demonstrate the hatred that the narrator has