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Sonny's Blues

Brooke Stein, Adam Schaeffer, Adam Coffey, Christopher Harlan, Krystal Stimpfel, Nic Imel

Brooke Stein

on 30 January 2013

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Transcript of Sonny's Blues

Who are the characters and how and why are they developed? Do the characters change over the course of the story? Are the characters flat or rounded? How is the plot organized? (Chronological? Flashbacks?) The beginning of the story is told in chronological order. We find out about Sonny's arrest and drug addiction
The middle of the story is a flashback to before Sonny was arrested
The end is told in chronological order from when Sonny gets out of prison to when he begins his jazz career Is the title of the short story significant? Yes
The two connotations of "Blues"
"Now these are Sonny's Blues." pg. 113 James Baldwin
"eloquent essays"
Important to know: James Baldwin was an African American homosexual during a time with extremely high racial tensions. Who is the author? Is he or she known for particular types of writing? Sonny's Blues
James Baldwin James Baldwin
1924-1987 How does the setting (time and place) contribute to the story? Drug use, arrests, dysfunctional families, and jazz music are all Harlem stereotypes
The housing projects convey the awful conditions to which all the family lived in
The Harlem setting is the reason Sonny turns to drugs
The narrator feels bad for bringing Sonny back to the place he was trying to "escape"
The nightclub where Sonny plays jazz symbolizes a "happy place" where he can escape Harlem What is the point of view? How would the story be different if it were told from another point of view? Describe the style or diction and discuss any interesting metaphors.
•Eloquent even musical. An example of this can be found on page 107 “As the singing filled the air… while dreaming of their last.”
•Metaphors :
“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.” Pg. 93
“Those who got out always left something of themselves behind, as some amputate a leg and leave it in the trap” pg. 98
Style very reminiscent of the Bible, sometimes taking lines directly from the Bible. The church was a large influence seen in all of his works.

Does anything in the story develop into a symbol?
Darkness: Represented as dark/ darkness is repeated multiple times throughout the story.
Pg. 92, “…trapped in the darkness which roared outside.”
Pg. 93, “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 than they were at any other time, and more alone.”
“For me, then, as they began to play again, it glowed and shook above my brother’s head like the very cup of trembling” pg. 114. (The cup of trembling representing the taking away of their struggles and pains; there will be justice for He will take the pains of your life and thrust it onto those who distress you.)
Importance of Jazz as well as other forms.
Pg. 107 “Not a soul under the sound of their voices… while dreaming of their last.”
“I heard what he had gone through, and would continue to go through until he came to rest on earth… And I was yet aware that this was only a moment, that the world waited outside, as hungry as a tiger, and that trouble stretched above us, longer than the sky.” Pg. 113.
Music creates an escape. What are some of the significant details in the story?
•Charlie (“Bird”) Parker
•Broken promises
•The circle of life
•The reference to the cup of trembling.
•The death of their father’s brother.
African Americans living under the harassment of Whites. Pg. 101, “…and he heard white men shouting…Till the day he died he weren’t sure but that every white man he saw was the man that killed his brother.”
What do you think the theme of the story is?
Suffering and Pain Class Participation Questions:
1. The story focuses on two characters, Sonny and his unnamed brother; the unnamed brother narrates the story. How would you describe each brother? What are their professions and their interests? Whom do you feel you know more about by the end of the story?

2. How do the narrator and Sonny react differently to pain and personal loss? Which brother do you sympathize with more? Why? · Narrator, Sonny, Isabel, Mother, Sonny’s Friend, Grace, Father and Creole ( in order of importance.)

· Narrator (rounded)- Sonny’s older brother and a relative success story when compared to other young men of Harlem. However he still feels trapped by Harlem. The Narrator has a good job as a math teacher, a wife and two kids. He is aware of Harlem’s dark side, however he tries to keep those problems at arm’s length refusing to let them affect him. Loves his brother but is unable to fully accept Sonny’s ability to change for the better.

· Sonny (rounded – Narrator’s younger troubled brother (7 years younger). Heroin addict at a young age. After spending time in jail, Sonny has developed a lot of emotional issues he keeps bottled up. These issues are prevalent in Sonny’s music and music is his release.

· Isabel (Flat) – She is able to make Sonny feel welcome and helps Sonny out of his shell of emotions. She is a caring wife and mother. She shared many traits with the Narrator’s mother.

· Mother – Dies while Sonny is a boy. Protector of the family. Final request is for the narrator to watch over Sonny.

· Sonny’s Friend - Drug addict whose brief presence in the story is representative of all he young men in Harlem who struggle with drug addiction. Informs the narrator that Sonny is in jail.

· Father - same personality as Sonny, withdrawn and constantly searching for a better life. Fought with Sonny constantly.

· Grace – Narrator’s daughter that dies while Sonny is in jail. Her death prompts the narrator to write a letter to Sonny and is symbolic of an act of grace, allowing the narrator to push aside his hatred for his brother and reach out to him.

· Creole – Imposing leader of Sonny’s band. He guides Sonny through his performances. -sonny's brother is telling the story
-the emotions would be lost if another told the story
- more of the history of the situations could be understood if another told the story
Full transcript