Theme of Suffering in “Sonny’s Blues”

People are made of the tangible; flesh and blood, muscles and bones, cells and nerves. The survival of man can be dissected into the purely clinical, the emotionless, the artless. The value of the anatomical can clearly not be understated, as such is the basest structure of presence. Nevertheless, when unaccompanied by that which offers grace and solace, pleasure and function, and, above all else, love and understanding, this structure grants just that: existence. A limp, dispassionate meandering through life at it’s most removed bare is a weak prospect, and yet it is the just one dealing with the character of Sonny in James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues, ought to he follow in the wake of his older bro.

While there are those who condemn Sonny’s drug use as an exemplification of pitiful weak point, it is a lot more than that; it is the overture of a kid in the dark, understanding at a flicker of light which he knows to be incorrect, but he grasps at anyway due to the fact that he so desperately needs something to clutch in his otherwise empty fist. Sonny is not the like his older brother; his soul is not the very same. Sonny has an artist’s soul, an artist’s suffering. Baldwin defines Sonny as a character who does not have an alternative to drugs, as an awful hero with an artist’s soul, by means of Sonny’s suffering and his home.

Throughout Sonny’s Blues, Baldwin illustrates the idea of suffering as hovering inescapably above all of his characters; every one suffers in some method– from grief, from hardship, from dependency, from restricted chances in life. All of the characters certainly experience agony, however none experience redemption, though they all try to find it in their own ways. Sonny’s brother does so by beginning a household, having a profession, and developing a house. Nevertheless, regardless of the unequivocal worth of such, none of this uses the bro salvation; he still lives in a Harlem real estate project that makes him wonder as he brings Sonny house if he is “just bringing him back into the threat he had almost died trying to get away” (Baldwin 840). He, whom is not stranded in the thrashing sea of addiction, is not complimentary. He decides that he thinks are best for him, and it is simple to consider these choices and question why Sonny does not make them too, why he picks heroin. Sonny and his bro are not the exact same, their suffering and their souls are too various, and they require different methods of coping. “Heroin … when it [is] in [the] veins … makes [one] feel sort of warm and cool at the very same time. And remote … and sure … it makes [one] feel in control … it [is] to stand it, to be able to make it at all. On any level … in order to keep from shaking to pieces” (853-854). This is the feeling Sonny is addicted to, the only weak form of solace he discovers. The terrible irony is that Sonny finds this facade of consolation in music, his enthusiasm, however an enthusiasm polluted by vice. This only perpetuates his suffering.

In Sonny’s Blues, Baldwin carefully links the styles of suffering and the house. The house is a physical place in Sonny’s Blues, but it is likewise a concept. It is a place to leave from, a place to go back to, a place with both terrible and fantastic memories. Home is comfort, conflict, grief, suffering, and caring all integrated. It is an apartment and it is a club. Its citizens are both actual and developed family. House is actual however it is also symbolic, considering that in lots of ways house is merely the sensation that a person belongs. The nightclub where Sonny plays the piano is “his kingdom. Here, it [is] not even a question that his veins bore royal blood” (860 ). The bar is really Sonny’s “house” now. He is comfy here, in his element. He has created a house for himself outside of the location where he sleeps and consumes, where he is accepted and admired, and that changes the club from a den of music and vice and the symptoms of an artist’s soul into Sonny’s house. Nevertheless, this is a house shared with fellow addicts, individuals who get high to play music, who are inherently inviting of more suffering at the hands of addiction. Beyond this house, “the world wait [s] outside, as starving as a tiger, and … trouble stretch [es] above [them], longer than the sky” (863 ). Nonetheless, this house gives Sonny a real sensation of peace, with himself and the world, nevertheless temporary. Its music provides him serenity, and, regardless of all of his suffering, it also paradoxically holds the ability to help Sonny overcome his addiction. Among the many disasters of Sonny is that his home offers him no genuine assurances; like all houses it can both injury and recover, but to a potentially fatal degree when the wounding is done by addicts and heroin.

Throughout Sonny’s Blues, Baldwin works to develop suffering as intrinsic to human life. He mentions that all people approach their pain and suffering in their own ways, that there is no offered formula for attending to complaint. The character of Sonny turn to heroin in an attempt to soothe his internal poison, however the disastrous outcome is the pain of dependency, for both himself and those that love him. Despite this, Sonny works to overcome his tribulations, especially through his created house, the location of his music and similar friends-turned-kin. This decision to surmount his dependency, constantly while being totally aware of his pain, makes Sonny into a tragic hero, trying to live honestly according to a soul that is all his own, not his bro’s; the soul of an artist.