Monday, September 20, 2010

Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin

#1        1 - Research the setting of “Sonny’s Blues” – Harlem, NYC.

The story was set in the 1950's-1960's after World War II. Drug addiction ran rampant in the streets.  Many people came home from the war to find their homes had turned into housing projects.  "The projects have playgrounds that are populated by drug dealers; they have large windows that no one wants to look out of." Life was hard, especially for people like Sonny, whose chosen career was to be a musician.
2 – How does the setting affect/shape Sonny’s character and create
conflict/complications in the story?
"From a young age, Sonny is haunted by the burden of being poor, black, and trapped within the confines of his community. As a young African American male born in Harlem, he is aware of the limits and obstacles he faces. He struggles to defy the stereotypes by moving away from Harlem and beginning a career as a musician. Unlike his brother, Sonny wants and needs an escape from Harlem and the traditional social order. Instead of being free, however, Sonny winds up being confined in prison—far from feeling trapped in his community, he is now literally captive. Even after Sonny is released from prison, the narrator describes him as a caged animal that is trying to break free from the effects that prison has had on him and from the drug addiction that led to his incarceration. " Sonny being in an environment like Harlem led him to do drugs which advertantly led to the conflict between Sonny and the Narrator.

#2        1 – Research the history of African-American men in the military – Pre-Civil
Rights movement.
"In addition to the perils of war faced by all Civil War soldiers, black soldiers faced additional problems stemming from racial prejudice. Racial discrimination was prevalent even in the North, and discriminatory practices permeated the U.S. military. Segregated units were formed with black enlisted men and typically commanded by white officers and black noncommissioned officers....Black soldiers were initially paid $10 per month from which $3 was automatically deducted for clothing, resulting in a net pay of $7. In contrast, white soldiers received $13 per month from which no clothing allowance was drawn...Black soldiers received the same rations and supplies. In addition, they received comparable medical care."

2 – Why is it ironic that Sonny wants to enlist?
Because he was joining the army to get away from the unsafe streets of Harlem.  When in actuality, he was putting himself into a more precarious predicament.

#3        1 – Research song lyrics by Billie Holiday. Find a song or verse that you feel best
            represents the suffering of Sonny – his blues.  Include song title and lyrics here.
Gloomy Sunday.

2 - Explain why.
This song reminds me of the turmoil that Sonny was going through.  It was a depressing song for a depressing character.  The song talks about "ending it all," or commiting suicide.  That's how I imagine that Sonny felt when he started doing drugs.

#4        1 – Research Bebop.
            "Bebop or bop is a style of jazz characterized by fast tempo, instrumental virtuosity and improvisation based on the combination of harmonic structure and melody. It was developed in the early and mid-1940s. It first surfaced in musicians' argot some time during the first two years of American involvement in the Second World War. This style of jazz ultimately became synonymous with modern jazz, as either category reached a certain final maturity in the 1960s."
2 – Bebop is the music that Sonny favors. What does the music represent
politically and socially to Sonny? What does the music represent to Sonny’s
To Sonny, it meant that the world was changing.  He used Bebop, which was a less stuctured version of jazz, to express his artistic side.  Sonny's brother, on the other hand, despised the music and blamed it on what it had done to his brother.  The brother liked more stuctured lifestyles.

1 comment:

  1. Good job, but focus on analyzing the story using your own words. This part of the assignment did not require you to research the answers. However, when providing research answers, refrain from only using direct quotes. I want to hear your "voice" in your writing.

    Grade = 16/20