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Jesus Sandoval

FIRE
English

Sonnys Drug


Sonny's Blues was written by James Baldwin in 1957. James Baldwin was born in 1914 in Harlem New
York. Baldwin a writer, novelist, poet and Civil Rights activist, wrote mostly of unspoken prejudice
involving racial, sexual and class distinctions. These writings were often set in mid-20
th
century America.
James Baldwin a black homosexual experienced a lot of hate and discrimination, which later helped him
write on his experiences. Baldwin wrote fiction pieces that are easily relatable to people from all walks
in life.
The Great Migration happened in mid-20
th
century. During this time, more than six million African
Americans moved from the South to the North to inhabit the cities where the streets were paved in
gold. African Americans moved North to take advantage of the job opportunities. After The Great
Migration African Americans were pushed out to the run down parts of the city known and in New York it
was Harlem. Here they realized that they wont have the luxurious lifestyles of the white people, they
will never achieve their American dream. Life was hard in Harlem, and you were to consider yourself
lucky if you made it out of Harlem, out of the ghettoes. In Sonny's Blues, the Narrator tells us about his
Brother Sonny.
Throughout the story he talks about Sonny's addiction to Heroine and the struggles and hardships he and
Sonny faced growing up in Harlem. When Sonny finally sobers up, he regained his passion for music it was
his motivation to get out of Harlem as a child, and now it became his new drug. Sonny tells the narrator
that everyone tries to find a way not to suffer, even the narrator himself. Music stimulates various parts
of the brain, making it an effective therapeutic or mood-altering tool. Musics pitch, rhythm, meter and
timbre are processed in various parts of the brain ranging from the prefrontal cortex to the hippocampus
to the parietal lobe. Rhythm and pitch are primarily left brain hemisphere functions, while timbre and
melody are processed primarily in the right hemisphere. Meter is processed in both hemispheres.
Listening to music stimulates the areas of the brain concerned with spatial reasoning although studies
have determined that this effect doesnt last more than 15 minutes after the music has stopped. While
the music is playing, however, study participants showed a marked increase in spatial reasoning.
From the title of the story to the closing scene, music plays a central role in defining the characters and
culture of Harlem in Sonnys Blues. At a young age, Sonny decides he wants to grow up to become a
musician, a decision that his brother has difficulty accepting. Sonny lists the great jazz musicians of his era,
most notably Charlie Parker, who had broken out of the traditional conventions of jazz to create a new,
freer form of musical expression. Unlike earlier forms of jazz, which relied heavily on well-developed and
thoroughly planned arrangements, the music of men such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie was
created spontaneously as the men listened and responded to each other. The music relied on instinct
rather than on rigid structures. Sonny contrasts his music idols with those of the previous generation,
whose rigid, classical form of musical expression is no longer valid. For Sonny, the world is an entirely
different place from the one his older brother grew up in and, as a result, needs new artistic forms to
convey its reality.
The music that Sonny plays and loves is based less on a strict formal order than on a pure expression of
the soul. Bebop, as it came to be known, was a radical new form of jazz. For musicians like Sonny, the
freedom of expression that came with bebop was a chance to live freely, defy social conventions and
norms, and create something utterly original. For many of the great musicians of that era, drugs were a
constant temptation. Sonnys stated musical hero, Charlie Parker, was himself addicted to drugs and died
a very early death partly as a result. At the end of the story, the narrator witnesses Sonnys playing
firsthand. The experience is similar to the religious revival the narrator witnessed earlier, with one major
exception: there is a real redemption available through the music.