Sonny's Blues

A Struggle for Light: Examining Windows in “Sonny’s Blues” College

There is a worn-out old saying about how when a door closes, there will always be a window to crawl through instead. But what if the window has bars on it? Or what if it is too high for someone to reach without anyone to give them a boost, and no one seems to be around? Or what if there are others around, but they’re all scrambling to get outside and not everyone can quite squeeze through the opening? This analogy is reminiscent of what blacks were going through in 1957 - the year in which James Baldwin wrote “Sonny’s Blues.” Windows appear as a motif throughout the short story, appearing in nearly every scene. Windows, even while shedding light on reality, provide a view into the unattainable; both of these functions drain the hope from the disadvantaged people of Harlem. There is one exception though, in the character of Sonny himself, who creates his own hope - his own light - even among darkness. The windows in “Sonny’s Blues” let in light, which helps to illuminate several realities for the characters in the story. Interestingly enough, this illumination begins with darkness. At one point the narrator recalls the Sunday evenings of his childhood, where guests from church would gather in the living room with his parents....

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