The Underground Railroad

Past and Future Blues: A Comparison of Historical Themes in 'Sonny's Blues' and 'The Underground Railroad' 11th Grade

The past is anything but mere history; it sheathes, surrounds, and encompasses us, as humans, as we forge on through life. Similarly, in two eminent American works of fiction - The Underground Railroad, The Cafeteria, and Sonny’s Blues - the past is eloquently woven in and out of the story, drastically influencing the reader’s perception of each tale and creating multidimensional narratives that focus on not only the present moment, but key events that shaped and molded it. Out of these three stories, Sonny’s Blues can be compared to The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead in that they both examine the tough historical narrative of racism and prejudice in the United States; ultimately though, Baldwin’s short story deals with the past in a very different manner, one valuing literary complexity over historical emphasis. With gripping prose and haunting narrative lyricism, Sonny’s Blues truly captures the weight of the past- personal, cultural, and familial- as it relates to our futures.

Both The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin explore the theme of pervasive racism against blacks in the United States: one through the harsh brutalities of slavery, and the other through numerous...

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