How does Balwin use literary elements in "Sonny's Blues"?

In "Sonny's Blues," James Baldwin uses literary elements of narration, dialogue, foils, themes, structure, imagery and setting to construct a complex story that examines brotherhood, manhood and the transformational aspect of art.

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In his 1957 short story "Sonny's Blues," James Baldwin uses a variety of literary elements to develop complex narrative with multiple thematic concerns.

The story is told from a first-person point of view of narration; it is the voice of the titular character's brother. He and Sonny are...

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In his 1957 short story "Sonny's Blues," James Baldwin uses a variety of literary elements to develop complex narrative with multiple thematic concerns.

The story is told from a first-person point of view of narration; it is the voice of the titular character's brother. He and Sonny are in many ways foils; the narrator has led a conventional life as a husband, father and breadwinner. He is responsible, and at times has resented adding his brother Sonny to the list of his responsibilities. Sonny, on the other hand, has lived more on his own terms. He has become involved in the drug scene and spent time in prison as a result. His only enduring career aspiration has been the uncertain life of a jazz musician.

The story's themes include an original take on the rite of passage. Sonny and the narrator both undertake a path to adulthood that involves struggle and sacrifice. It is also a story about choices and consequences. The narrator has made good on his promise to their mother to look after Sonny, but he feels both guilt and resentment over it. And Sonny's decision to experiment with heroin costs him years of his life. However, staying true to his dream of playing jazz enables him to find his place onstage in New York as a new American art form is taking root. This triumph also enables his brother to find new respect for Sonny when he witnesses his brother finding his rightful place.

The story's structure incorporates a sure-handed balance of dialogue and the narrator's thoughts. Imagery of the diversity of New York deepen the story's setting and provide context for two brothers facing the additional struggles associated with race in mid-century urban America.

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