September 11, 2003

"Sonny's Blues"

The following is what I wrote for my third assignment for ENGL 325. We were asked to select one of the following short stories: "Sonny's Blues", "Story of an Hour", "Use of Force", or "Girls and Boys." The professor wanted us to identify and examine a significant and interesting choice that the author made about how the story is told. Also, we were asked to explain how this choice contributes to the effect the story has on the reader. I had already decided that I wanted to write about "Sonny's Blues" regardless of whether or not the teacher assigned us to write about it or not as soon as I finished reading it. There's a lot going on in this story. I was up late on Tuesday night (that was a non-stop day for me and I had saved this paper for last). I finished around two in the morning. When I got to school the next morning when it was due, I read back over it and decided that I needed to preemptively write a response at the end to answer the questions I could hear my professor asking in my head. I don't have what I added in at the last minute to post with entry right now, as I haven't gotten my paper back yet. When I do get it back I'll be sure to put it up.

The most interesting choice that I thought author James Baldwin made in his short story titled "Sonny's Blues" was in the way that he sequenced it. Sonny had been forever immortalized as a child in his older brother's (the narrator's) mind. The narrator found himself reminiscing about how his little brother had looked in the past and from there he got to considering how he must appear now in the future. The narrator was not able to move beyond how his brother used to look. In hearing the laughter of some school children he also heard a distant echo of his brother and of his former self. Then the narrator abruptly shifted the perspective forward again.

The way narrator kept moving his perspective around created an almost audible sort of dissonance that craved resolution throughout the story. With each successive shift, he remained in a given tense for an increasingly longer stretch of time until finally he was rooted firmly in the present. The final shift took place around the time when Sonny came home to live with the narrator. Consonance followed not long after.

The reason why Baldwin chose the scene, where the narrator has read Sonny's story in a newspaper and refuses to believe it, as his first is because he wants to point out that he will not accept any story about Sonny unless he has heard it directly from Sonny himself. It was apparent to me that throughout the story Sonny had been trying to tell his story to his older brother, but he wasn't listening to him. The narrator was much too consumed with his own story that he couldn't hear that Sonny was trying to tell him his. The narrator was not even aware that Sonny had developed this story of his own.

Everyone has their own story to tell and their own individual way of sharing it. With Sonny it was only though his music that he could articulate himself in a way that his brother could understand and be capable of relating to. In the end, consonance was achieved by expressing his story in a way that transcended words.

-- CrystalShiloh @ 05:36 PM