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Sonny's Blues Prezi
Transcript of Sonny's Blues Prezi
Performed By Michael Lim, Joel Molina, Jacob Brothers and Blake Harrison
Written By James Baldwin
Vindictive (adj.): vengeful; seeking revenge. "...and which they now, vindictively, dreamed... "
Conk (n): a hairstyle in whch the hair is straightened out and flattened down. "The barbecue cook, wearing a dirty white apron, his conked hair reddish and metallic in the pale sun, and a cigarette between his lips..."
Author Info: Born in New York City, James Baldwin (1924-1987) was raised in poverty in Harlem. At the age of fourteen, he became the preacher of Fireside Pentecostal Church. After high school he decided to become a writer. He moved to Paris thanks to a grant he recieved with the help of African American writer Richard Wright. He stayed there for most of his remaining years. Some of his famous stories would be
Tell Me How Long the
Train's Been Gone
Historical/Cultural Context: The story was published in 1957 and WWll is in recent memory. Shortly after the war, there was a global increase of culture, largely in music. Artists all over the world flooded to New York City, and Sonny soon follows suit exercsing his musical tallents. Also during this time, many African American soldiers were returning from WWll, in which both Sonny and the narrator participated.
Genre/Literary Movement: This story falls under the genre of Literary Fiction. Literary Fiction mainly focuses on the development of characters. Baldwin creates all of his characters with a deep, almost psychological depth. The characters is what moves the plot along. This story was published in the early years of the civil rights movement, so some believe this story is related to this event.
Setting: The story takes place in NYC in Harlem after WWll.
The unnamed narrator of the story discovers from a newspaper that his younger brother, Sonny, has been arrested for selling and using heroin. As he prepares to teach his algebra class, the narrator remembers Sonny as a young boy. His students, he realizes, could someday end up like Sonny, given the obstacles and hardships they face growing up in Harlem. At the end of the school day, the narrator heads home, but he notices that one of Sonny’s old friends, who is always high and dirty, is waiting for him by the school. The two men walk together, talking about Sonny. The narrator simultaneously hates and pities Sonny’s friend, who, despite his problems, makes it painfully clear to the narrator just how difficult Sonny’s drug-addicted life has been and how difficult it will continue to be.
Time passes, but the narrator never writes to Sonny in prison until the narrator’s young daughter, Grace, dies. Sonny writes a long letter back to his brother in which he tries to explain how he ended up where he is. The two brothers then stay in constant communication. When Sonny gets out of jail, the narrator is there for him. He takes Sonny back to his own family’s apartment.
In an extended flashback, the narrator recalls how Sonny and their father used to fight with each other because they were so similar in spirit. He remembers the last day he saw his mother while on leave from the army, when she told him to watch out for his brother. She told him that when his father was a young man, he watched his own brother get run down by a car full of white men who never bothered to stop. The experience traumatized and damaged the narrator’s father for the rest of his life.
Themes, Symbols, Allegory
After that conversation with his mother, the narrator went back into the army and didn’t think about his brother again until their mother died. After the funeral, the two brothers sat and talked about Sonny’s future. Sonny told his brother about his dream of becoming a jazz pianist, which the narrator dismissed. The narrator arranged for Sonny to live with his wife’s family until Sonny graduated from college. Sonny reluctantly agreed to do so. He didn’t want to live in the house and spent all his spare time playing the piano. Although Sonny loved the music, the rest of family had a hard time bearing his constant practicing.
While living with his sister-in-law, Sonny got into trouble for skipping school. He tried to hide the truancy letters, but one eventually made it to the house. When his sister-in-law’s mother confronted him, Sonny admitted to spending all his time in Greenwich Village, hanging out with musicians. The two fought, and Sonny realized what a burden he’d been on the family. After two days, Sonny joined the navy. The narrator didn’t know whether Sonny was dead or alive until he received a postcard from Greece. After the war, the two brothers returned to New York, but they didn’t see each other for quite some time. When they eventually met, they fought about Sonny’s decisions in life. After one especially difficult fight, Sonny told his brother that he could consider him dead from that point on. The narrator walked away, telling himself that one day Sonny would need his help. The flashback ends there.
After having Sonny live with him for a few weeks, the narrator debates whether he should search Sonny’s room. As he paces back and forth, he sees a street-corner revival occurring outside his window and thinks about its significance. Eventually Sonny comes home and invites his brother to watch him perform later that evening. The two brothers go to a small jazz club where everyone knows and respects Sonny. Sonny and the band get on stage and play, and as they play, the narrator watches Sonny struggle with the music. He watches all his brother’s struggles come pouring out as he plays, and only then does he finally realize who Sonny is and what he’s made of.
Denigrate (v): to deniy the impotance or vitality of; to belittle. " It was mocking and insular, its intent was to denigrate."
Furlough (n): a leave of absence. "...until I got shipped home on a special furlough for her funeral."
1. What subject does the narrator teach?
Correct Answer: A
2. Sonny is the narrarator's _______
d.) Imaginary Friend
Correct Answer: C
3. What instrument does Sonny play?
a.) The Drums
b.) The Piano
c.) The Saxaphone
d.) The Violin
Text to Society
Relation Towards the Traditional Family Struggles
Throughout the story, James Baldwin describes the complications within the regular family households. One example of this would be the arguments between the youth and the elderly. In a scene between the Narrator and the brother Sonny, statements are yelled forward covering the true meaning of the argument. During this scene, the Narrator is telling Sonny why he shouldn’t leave high school and advising Sonny to stir towards a different career path, instead of the desired musician lifestyle.
Obligation of Brotherly Love- Throughout the story, the relationship between the narrator and Sonny ever since their mother's death has been strengthened, but went through some hardships. Relationship can be compared to that of Cain and Abel like Cain, the narrator leaves his brother at first but later accepts his brother once again.
Rage and Fury- Rage and Fury is a theme that is also shown throughout the story within each African American during this time and in Harlem as well. This rage and fury ultimately ends with each person lead into a life of darkness. Rage and Fury is also Sonny's source to play the kind of Jazz that he does.
Light and Darkness- Light in the story describes Sonny's younger years and represents all of the best elements of life and shares a religious undertone before the darkness that overcame after his mother's death. Darkness is the symbol thta takes over all of the characters as the story progresses with Sonny's addiction to drugs and his imprisonment both spiritually and literally.
Correct Answer: B
Text to Society
Relation in Relieving Oneself from Darkness Through Music
Sonny is a gifted jazz pianist. James Baldwin shows the reader that Sonny plays in order to escape reality. The narrator also realizes this through the following quote: “And I was yet aware that his was only a moment, that the world waited outside.” When listening and part taking in music, people are able to escape the difficult times and focus their minds on entertainment and happiness. Just like Sonny, Stevie Wonder plays music to escape his reality of blindness. Through music he is leaving behind the darkness of reality.
3. What does the Narrarator promise his mother?
a.) To let Sonny know he was there; hold on to him and not let him fall
b.) To pick up milk on the way home
c.) To avenge his father
d.) To make sure that Sonny follows his dream of being a jazz musician
Correct Answer: A
4. What does Sonny say the woman's singing reminds him of?
a.) A dream he once had
b.) Algebra class
c.) The Feeling he gets when he plays the piano
d.) None of the above
1. Interpret the following statme of the Narrator : "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 than they were at any other time, and more alone."
Correct Answer: D
Text To Text
Cain and Abel vs. Sonny's Blues
5. What does Sonny say his true reason for leaving Harlem is?
a.) To find true love across seas
b.) To join the military
c.) To 'run away' from his heroin addiction
d.) To learn Jazz from professional musicians
In both texts, brotherly relations is a similar aspect that come be found. In the biblical story, Cain is provided with the question of wheter he is supposed to be his brother's keeper after he ironically murdered his brother, Abel. The Narrator is also given the same dilemma of being his brother's keeper after the death of their mother. Similarily to Cain, the Narrator fails to become Sonny's keeper; the commadment that he promised to his mother was broken. Unlike Cain, the Narrator redeems himself as his brother's keep by accepting Sonny into his home and providing him with care.
Correct Answer: C
2. The story moves back and forth from the present to the past and back again. Does this influence how we read the story? If so, how?
3. Could this story have been set somewhere besides Harlem and still have dealt with the same issues?
4. What role does music impose on the characters of the story?
5. Would the story be different if it were about two sisters?
POV, Setting, Conflict
POV: The story is told in a first person point of view from the thoughts of the brother of Sonny. He tells Sonny's life story as well as his own and his relationship with Sonny and what they've gone through as a family.
"The darkness outside is what the old folks have been talking about. It's what they've come from. It's what they endure. The child knows they won't talk any more because if he knows too much about what's happened to them, he'll know too much too soon, about what's going to happen to him."
Shown that suffering is inevitible. Parents try to protect thier children aslong as they can from the suffering that lurks ahead.
"I'm glad Mama and Daddy are dead and can't see what's happened to their son. "
In some cases, its better to not have family around than for them to live with the possible disappointment that one may bring.
Setting: Sonny's Blues takes place in post–World War II New York, in the midst of an important cultural and political revolution that permanently changed the country. Artists from all over the world had made New York a new cultural capital.
Conflict: Sonny wants to be a jazz piano player, but the narrator thinks this is a waste of his life. Their inability to see eye to eye on this is what causes so much strife between the brothers. Sonny's drug addiction and imprisonment cause the narrator to take Sonny back in just as Cain has done with Abel
"Safe!" my father grunted, whenever Mama suggested trying to move to a neighborhood which might be safer for children. "Safe, hell! Ain't no place safe for kids, nor nobody."
6. What two darknesses did the boys growing up in Harlem have?
a.) Darkness of their lives and the darkness of the movies
b.) Darkness of their childhood and the darkness of the comic books
c.) Darkness of their lives and the darkness of the video games
d.) Darkness of their music and the darkness of the night
Correct Answer: A
7. When does the narrarator finally decide to write Sonny?
a.) When his daugter, Gracie, dies from polio
b.) When he sees a jazz musician and it reminds him of Sonny
c.) When he first reads about what happened to Sonny in the paper
d.) After he meets one of Sonny's friends in the courtyard of the school
Wherever one goes, suffering and pain is always to follow. Life isn't life without these negative aspects, especially in the area of Harlem.
Correct Answer: A
8. What is the name of the narrarator's wife?
Correct Answer: B
Correct Answer: C
9. How many years older than Sonny is the Narrarator?
10. What is Sonny's uncle carrying on his back when he is killed?
b.) A package for his brother
c.) A backpack
d.) A guitar
Correct Answer: D
Sonny's Blues. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.sparknotes.com/short-stories/sonnys-blues/
Sonny's Blues. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.shmoop.com/sonnys-blues/
Sonny's Blues. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.enotes.com/topics/sonnys-blues-james-baldwin