The story of Sonny by James Baldwin is set in Harlem an impoverished and oppressed city in the African neighborhood of New York during 1950. Sonny’s experience symbolizes a people, whose hands are tied, having limited possibilities in an unfriendly world. We realize that Sonny is arrested for selling heroin and is imprisoned. He is not responsible for his addiction; it is Harlem which has a severe drug addiction. The city is a trap, and as the narrator says, the streets of Harlem are ‘vivid killing streets of their childhood.’ Additionally, Sonny and his father did not have a good relationship, and the narrator was not his brother’s keeper (Charters, 2015).
Sonny’s love for jazz music was a distraction. He was passionate about the music which assisted him to endure and overcome suffering. It was through jazz music that Sonny accepted his plight, managed to cope and gave him a reprieve. Jazz is a representation of how we suffer, how we are excited, we overcome and triumph our challenges. Music was his conduit to redemption. The character of Sonny reminds people of their suffering and heritage. Baldwin uses the role of Sonny, his addiction, and his talent to point to something more significant that was taking place in the African American Society of his time. Harlem was characterized by racism, and limited opportunities and the suffering borne by the community as a result of racism. During the 1950’s embracing heritage in the political struggle was crucial. It was only by understanding the culture that the people could get exculpation.
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