Meaning of Windows in “Sonny’s Blues”

There is a damaged old saying about how when a door closes, there will always be a window to crawl through rather. However what if the window has bars on it? Or what if it is too high for someone to reach without anyone to provide a boost, and nobody appears to be around? Or what if there are others around, however they’re all rushing to get outdoors and not everybody can rather squeeze through the opening? This example is similar to what blacks were going through in 1957– the year in which James Baldwin wrote “Sonny’s Blues.” Windows appear as a theme throughout the short story, appearing in nearly every scene. Windows, even while shedding light on reality, provide a view into the unattainable; both of these functions drain the hope from the disadvantaged individuals of Harlem. There is one exception however, in the character of Sonny himself, who develops his own hope– his own light– even amongst darkness. The windows in “Sonny’s Blues” let in light, which helps to illuminate a number of realities for the characters in the story. Interestingly enough, this lighting begins with darkness. At one point the narrator recalls the Sunday nights of his youth, where visitors from church would gather in the living room with his moms and dads. The “darkness growing versus the windowpanes” (Mays 82) is a suggestion to the children, including the young storyteller, that their world is among imminent darkness. The blackness of the night envelopes them just as the blackness of their skin and the murkiness of their neighborhood does; it continuously threatens them, knocking at the window like a tree branch on a stormy night. By the time the storyteller matures, however, he is quite utilized to the darkness of his life and the tenebrous windows handle a brand-new meaning: denial.

The story opens in a train, where windows are rendered worthless in the tunnels, as the narrator checks out the paper and learns of his brother’s arrest for heroin. Rejection is in fact a soothing possibility in the shadowy underground, and it takes the storyteller a long time to think the news. The narrator had actually been avoiding the fact for a while prior to the story starts, pressing it out into the darkness where he didn’t have to take a look at it. He ‘d “kept it outside … for a long period of time.” (Mays 74) For individuals fortunate enough to live beyond Harlem, looking through a window may be a pleasant experience. However for homeowners of Harlem, it is just a reminder of the violent, dingy communities they were born into. Individuals in the story leave their underprivileged realities by overlooking the windows, rather relying on entertainment as a diversion. As Baldwin states, “the darkness of the films … blinded them to that other darkness” (Mays 75). In the real estate task the narrator resides in, there are big windows in your houses. But nobody “troubles” with them, instead deciding to “watch the TV screen” (Mays 80). Television and the films show something different from truth, a welcome break from the bleak view outside. The illuminating power of windows in “Sonny’s Blues” is shown no much better than in the scene in which the storyteller keeps in mind talking with his mother for the last time. In the scene, he discovers many stunning things– his father had a bro who was eliminated, his dad wept often to his mom behind closed doors, and so on. He learns all this from his mom, who is being in the window, the light shining on her black dress, a spotlight for darkness the storyteller did not even know existed. “This was the first time,” he said, “I ever saw my mom appearance old” (Mays 83). At the very same time as the storyteller is enlightened about his dad, his mom looks off into the streets, dreamily, humming a church tune, as though searching for something more. The mom is not the only one to browse the windows to find something unattainable. When Sonny returns to New york city, he and the storyteller take a cab to their community. Sonny demands that they drive through the park so he can see the city he had not seen for quite some time. As they both stare through the windows, the storyteller recognizes that in order for anyone to “escape the trap” of Harlem as he did– he had gotten himself a respectable job as an algebra teacher– they should lose something of themselves. No one gets out whole and total. He realizes he and Sonny are watching out the windows for “the part of [them] selves which had actually been left behind” (Mays 80). Another poignant scene in which the storyteller is searching for something difficult to understand through a window is when the narrator observes a revival meeting. They begin singing “‘T is the old ship of Zion … it has actually rescued many a thousand” (Mays 92). However, as the storyteller explains, not one of the people listening to the hymn had actually been saved. It has an effect on individuals nonetheless. Sonny compares the lady’s singing voice to a drug (Mays 93). The views from certain windows could be like a drug in some cases.

Another time in the story a window is compared to a lodestone (Mays 96), which is a magnetic rock. Despite the fact that individuals in the story know things are likely impossible, they can not keep away from those ideas. At this point, it ought to be kept in mind that windows are not the only interior function that represents the unattainable in this story. On the really first page, Baldwin sets up the idea of spaces as barriers. The opportunities of young kids in Harlem are deterred by the “low ceiling of their actual possibilities” (Mays 74). So, while they are trapped in confined, low-ceilinged rooms, all they have is a window to look out of to see just what it is they are missing out on. The fascinating thing is that windows are mentioned nearly everywhere in the story other than in the scenes where Sonny is playing the piano. Sonny’s name is no mishap. It is a homophone for “sunny.” There is something warm about his character; it seems that with his passion for the piano, he is the only one doing what he wants to finish with his life (despite the fact that his sibling is the one with an admirable career). Sonny has developed his own sun with music, and when he is playing the piano he doesn’t need any light from the outside world.

One could argue that Sonny is as desperate to crawl through those metaphorical windows as anyone else in the story. After all, he composes in his letter that he “seems like a man who’s been attempting to climb of some deep, real deep and cool hole and simply saw the sun up there, outside. I got to get outdoors” (Mays 78). But it is very important to keep in mind that this is when he has been detained and can’t be a part of allure scene again up until he returns from rehab. He just longs for an open window when he doesn’t have access to his piano. After all, the only time a window is opened in the story, it is opened by Sonny, and he knocks it immediately closed again; it allow the odor of trash bin (Mays 88). Despite the fact that he may have had an opportunity to open a metaphorical window to a better life– he was smart, after all– Sonny is content with discovering joy in a darker world of drugs and nightclubs and jazz. Unlike his bro, Sonny is aphotic, growing in spite of darkness instead of trying to slip through a fracture into the light. The storyteller experiences this charm in darkness Sonny has found for a short moment when he listens to Sonny play in the nightclub. He thinks for a moment he might be able to “stop lamenting,” but then remembers that “the world waits outside” (Mays 100). Sonny’s passion is an unusual one, and many do not love something a lot that their passion can solitarily bring them delight that is otherwise hindered by their location in society. The contemporary world may seem very various from the one in 1957, however not whatever has actually altered. Even today, the impoverished people of this world might try just briefly to claw their way through a window that may or may not exist for them, having a hard time for light before going for darkness.

Source: Mays, Kelly J. The Norton Intro to Literature. W. W. Norton and Business, Inc, 2006. Print.