Sonny’s Clues

Sonny’s Blues is a story with many lessons, much advice, most of them dark. I first read this story with a positive outlook but as I look at the diction and read in between the lines the story is not so bright as I first thought.

James Baldwin effectively used everyday positive images and successfully managed to turn them into dark figures. Such as “the playground is most popular with the children who don’t play at jacks, or skip rope, or roller skate, or swing, and they can be found in it after dark” talking of the drug abuse in the youth in the community and the dark path they trail.

Image result for dark playgrounds

What I really want to get at is the on bottom of page 77 and continues at the top of 78. The conversation of the parents and older people of the community, and the topic they speak of and how Baldwin presents it. How he sets up a room of those in the community who have survived, but not thrived. The trap in which the kids grow up in, not realizing the cage that surrounds them. This is just another moment of what should be happiness but Baldwin manages to turn off the lights, and show the truth. He speaks of the darkness “growing” outside the windows and the noises of the streets, while the parents of the community are inside. They speak and have conversation with one another of their experience, the community they have suffered and endured. This darkness grows everyday because the children become a day closer to becoming an adult, in which they realize the situation they grew up in, is life they cannot escape, a cycle. He shows the cycle, is invisible to the naive youth with the line “everyone is looking at something a child can’t see” showing the kids are still blind to what is ahead of them. What is ahead of them, is what their parents went through, and what their parents went through, and on and on.

This cycle is of racism, poverty, and Baldwin sets it up as inescapable. Sonny’s brother and Sonny himself, are his examples, for Sonny went down the road of drugs, barely surviving and his brother, continuing the cycle by not escaping the neighborhood, by living in a project-house, though he has a job as a teacher. Some may argue that Sonny managed to escape this quiet cycle with his music, but Baldwin uses his music to emphasize that he is only a survivor.His music only being a parallel to the discussion of the parents, only being able to speak, create sound, in which they can understand the situation they are in, and the narrator being able to hear his brother’s music because he too understands that they are stuck. Overall, Sonny’s Blues is a wonderful work.

2 thoughts on “Sonny’s Clues

  1. Jack B

    Overall I liked your deep analysis of “Sonys Clues” and the specific examples you used such as, “the playground is most popular with the children who don’t play at jacks, or skip rope, or roller skate, or swing, and they can be found in it after dark”. These examples tie down to your underlying claims and I thought that was well portrayed.



    To begin with, I like the title of your post. I hadn’t thought of this story this deeply though. I especially liked you’re final paragraph. As a reader, I had felt like our narrator was able to escape this cycle that takes its toll on people, but after reading your analysis I begin to see the opposing side to this thought. Even though our narrator wasn’t using drugs himself, the people around him were still using them, and they took effects on people very close to him, like Sonny. The fact that he was able to escape this lifestyle, but not the place where it occurs means that he didn’t really escape at all. He is still stuck there, and the people he loves are still abusing drugs and unable to cope with how they feel.


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