Sonny’s Blues Analysis

Sonny's Blues: Literary Devices and Themes

Sonny's Blues is a short story about a young jazz musician who is arrested because of his drug use. After completing his jail sentence, he is released. Sonny, a young musician, finds it difficult to reintegrate into society, particularly when it comes to reconnecting with his brother. Sonny's involvement with drugs has created a strained relationship between the two. In addition, their relationship was complicated by family and musical issues. As the narrator recalls, Sonny and their father had a strained relationship, and they would sometimes clash and even fight. Sonny shares his urge to be a jazz musician after their mother's death. It is a dream he longed to achieve, but his brother dismissed it purporting that it is bound to fail. Sonny was passionate about music and did much to realize this dream even though all the family members were against the idea. At the end of the story, the speaker can realize just how passionate Sonny is in jazz music. Therefore, this paper will discuss some of the literary devices utilized in the tale to make it enticing. The writer incorporates allegory and symbolism to convey Sonny’s relation with jazz music. Furthermore, the genre, writing style, and setting are effectively utilized to convey the story. The main tale is primarily focused on tracing Sonny’s path in the music industry.

Writing style

The tale is poetic as depicted by the wording that is somehow lyrical. The author uses the musical approach to emphasize the main aim of the narrative that revolves around music. The narrative is poetic regarding the lyrical and beautiful writing. A good example can be illustrated via the sentiment “the singing filled the air, the listening, watching faces went through a change, eyes focused within, it seems the music was soothing out poison….” It is an efficient way of delivering a narrative to entice the audience, yet still, communicate a particular theme.


The tale is based in Harlem during the early years of the 1950s. In that regard, the author utilized this setting to elucidate on the surrounding environment that probably drove Sonny into drug addiction. The environment was quite unfavorable as families were impoverished and young men had no responsibilities. In such a setting, people are bound to practice evil deeds. The drugs offered solace though they were illegal. Moreover, within the streets, the nightclub was the best place Sonny could escape the troublesome environment. As the narrator explains, the streets of Harlem were the reason Sonny abused drugs.


In writing, authors strive to convey personal experiences in a manner that is understood by the readers or audience. On the other hand, writers can use fiction, and in this case, the author depicted literal fiction. In this particular tale, family, drug, and music conflicts propel it. The emotional depth shaped by the writer articulates the inner commotion revolving around the characters driving the plot. Although it is clear numerous things occurred in the tale, the occurrences only typify the tools; thus, implying that this work is literary fiction.


The whole story can be considered as an allegory revolving around jazz music. Sonny’s brother had little to no knowledge about jazz and only associates it with certain individuals, whom he did not want to relate to Sonny. According to him, it was the reason Sonny was addicted to drugs. The lifestyle associated with jazz turned Sonny into a heroin addict. In other words, jazz was a symbol of indifferent behaviors. From the narrator’s perception, musicians must be high to play the music. In that regard, it made him angry. Nonetheless, jazz represented something else when it came to Sonny. It was the ray of light and accorded Sonny solace, which could not be attained anywhere else. Everything about jazz enticed Sonny, and he enjoyed listening and playing since it was the only positive thing in his life. To his brother, jazz and all aspects surrounding it were injurious to him. While it signified trouble to the speaker, it offered comfort to Sonny. As the tale ends, jazz acts as the bridge between Sonny and his brother who comes to realize how special it was.


Symbolism is one of the most used literary devices in this story, which helps to elucidate the central theme. Jazz music is generally used to depict different things connected with various characters. Ice images are also common in this tale and portray something crucial to Sonny’s life. The iceberg symbolizes fear, shock, and dread. A good example can be portrayed by the speaker’s sentiments when he learns that Sonny was arrested. He described the happening as “a block of ice settling in the belly.” Even in the real world, ice typifies something that causes discomfort. On the contrary, light is used to typify success or something good. Sonny’s music in the club glowed to the amazement of the narrator who realizes how important jazz meant to Sonny.


The main theme in this tale revolves around jazz music. While it was foreign to the speaker, the music meant a lot to Sonny. It goes on to bridge the gap between the two brothers as the narrator comes to the realization of how jazz played a significant role in Sonny’s life. Light and ice are used to symbolize two opposing aspects, i.e., success and discomfort respectively. While Sonny faced immense challenges including drug addiction, jazz music was the only remedy.

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. “Sonny’s Blues.” 1965. Sonny’s Blues. Document. 12 October 2016.

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