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Sonnys Blues Freedom Through Music Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 814 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Even in last century racism was common in the USA. This makes a lot of black people feel like they have no chance of doing well in life and accomplishing anything special. This pressure by society and way of life, searching for hope and ways to express themselves has caused music to be significant in the black community. James Baldwin in his story “Sonny’s Blues” shows the importance of music for black people who feel lost in a community that discriminates them. Music plays significant role for Sonny and the black community, the reader can understand it from symbolical meanings in text, his decision to become musician, Sonny’s practices in his sister’s house and the last scene of the story.

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To begin with, “Sonny’s blues” has few symbols that show the importance of music in the story. Firstly, the author writes about boy in school: “One boy was whistling a tune, at once very complicated and very simple, it seemed pouring out of him as though he were a bird…” Symbol of bird means freedom, freedom of choice that most black people do not have. It means freedom of becoming who they want to be and not who they are pressured by society to be. This boy expresses his feelings and thoughts using music. Music gives him that freedom of mind that he does not have in real life. Secondly, the story is called ”Sonny’s Blues”. Blues music is more freedom inspiring than jazz and that is why story is not called “Sonny’s Jazz”. Blues is better for expressing someone’s life story using music and that is what Sonny needs. The name of the story also shows that it is not just music from the sheet that Sonny is playing; it is Sonny’s music. It is his life that is within this music.

Next, the important point of the story shows the reader that music plays a big role in Sonny’s life and his decision to become a musician. When Sonny’s brother asks what he wants to do in life, Sonny answers that he wants to become a musician. Sonny presents music as a goal of his life. He wants to enjoy it every day and fight for freedom of all black people using his music and he thought that his brother should be proud of him and appreciate it. Sonny is in good mood at first, but after some more talking he does not feel support from his brother. His brother is the only person left whom he could open to and he does not understand him: “He looked more helpless than ever, and annoyed, and deeply hurt.” Sonny feels terrible that his brother does not support him, because music is everything for him.

Other evidence of that Sonny is taking music very seriously is his playing in Isabel’s house: “as soon as he came in from school, or wherever he had been when he was supposed to be at school, he went straight to that piano and stayed there until suppertime. And, after supper, he went back to that piano and stayed there until everybody went to bad… Isabel finally confessed that it wasn’t like living with a person at all, it was like living with sound.” Sonny is like walking and living sound. Baldwin wants to show how close Sonny is connected with music. He is playing all day long and nothing else bothers him. It seems like he would not even eat if he could, music is bread for his soul and mind.

Finally the last scene brings us closer to experiences that Sonny and his brother has while listening and playing music: “Sonny’s fingers filled the air with life, his life. But that life contained so many others… Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did.” Reader can experience that connection of music and their lives. For them it is more than just music. Music gives them freedom that is so hard to find in dark streets of Harlem and overall society. Music gives second chance and opportunity to express their feelings.

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Music plays significant role in Sonny’s life as well as it plays significant role for all African Americans. Most of black people find their other world that they can live in using drugs or participating in gangs, because that gives them freedom that everyone needs. They want to fight for their place in society and they are also trying to survive somehow in this problematic environment. Everyone finds his own way to deal with problems that he faces. Sonny’s brother tried very hard to get a place in society and the place that he got was his fight that he won against the discrimination and pressure from society. This is why music became so important for the black community. Music gave them freedom and the opportunity to express themselves, enjoy their life and be part of a significant movement towards freedom.


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