The tragedy Essay

Submitted By december333
Words: 1070
Pages: 5

The tragedy, of the short story, “Sonny’s Blues,” written by James Baldwin, is signified using the violent undertones portrayed throughout the text. Violence is described throughout the story in many instances. Those being through the narrator’s workplace and the students who attended, through the presence of drugs, through the death of his daughter, and through there being an overall successful outcome and yet still being left in a sorrowful situation.
The first main portrayal of violence to occur is when the narrator is describing his work place and his students. Baldwin states,
Yet it had happened and here I was, talking about algebra to a lot of boys who might, every one of them for all I know, be popping off needles every time they went to the head. Maybe it did more for them than algebra could. I was sure that the first time Sonny had ever had horse, he couldn’t have been much older than these boys were now. These boys, now, were living as we’d been living then, they were growing up with a rush and their heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities. They were filled with rage. All they really knew were two darknesses, the darkness of their lives, which was now closing in on them, and the darkness of the movies which had blinded them to that other darkness, and in which they now, vindictively dreamed, at once more together that they were at any other time, and more alone. (Pg 56 &57)
This passage really illustrates the students. It states how they are filled with rage and that they only knew darkness. They were growing up in a hostile environment and their possibilities weren’t very high. This passage also shows the presence of drugs in their community through the reference of the students “popping off needles”(pg 56). Drugs are a symbol of violence. Their teachers noticed the violent depictions the students had. Baldwin says, “Their laughter struck me for perhaps the first time. It was not the joyous laughter which – God knows why – one associates with children. It was mocking and insular, its intent to denigrate.” (pg 57) This quote describes the student’s laughter as heard through the ears of the narrator. This portrays violence because even though they are children, who are normally described as being joyous or innocent, their laughter is actually very menacing and corrupt sounding. He says, “A teacher passed through them every now and again, quickly, as though he or she couldn’t wait to get out of that courtyard, to get those boys out of their sight and off their minds.” (pg 57) It was almost as if the teachers were afraid of the students, thus also symbolizing the violence the students portrayed. Even though, “Sonny’s Blues” is a success story, the narrator is still trapped in a world of violence. The narrator says, “ He hit something in all of them, he hit something in me, myself, and the music tightened and deepened, apprehension began to beat the air.”(pg. 75) It is a success story because the narrator is able to finally able to hear music for the first time. He went to watch his brother play and was able to open up and hear the way music speaks to someone. He was able to see the way it affected people surrounding him and his brother. It became a way for him to communicate with his brother on a more personal level. Sonny was a success story because he was finally able to get lost in his playing without the use of drugs. Although this is true he is still more then likely going to get sucked back into using heroin. While he doesn’t come outright and say this, he makes comments suggesting it a few times. When asked if he needs heroin in order to play Sonny replies saying “I don’t know. It’s not so much to play. It’s to stand it, to be able to make it at all. On any level” Sonny was successful because