I need help writing a fictional essay about "Sonny's Blues".

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lacking definitive parameters on this essay, a working definition will be created here for the purpose of assistance:

Of course, the word essay is derived from the French verb essayer, which means "to try"; the first essayist was Michel de Montaigne who wrote his "attempts" to convey his observations and arguments. With time, however, the essay has come to have broad definitions that reach as far as a short story. Furthermore, the term has been extended to other media such as cinematography; for instance, a film essay is 

a movie that often incorporates documentary film-making styles and which focuses more on the evolution of a theme or an idea

Dr. Johnson’s dictionary defined an essay as “a loose sally of the mind; an irregular indigested [sic] piece.”

Now, these definitions of film essay and Samuel Johnson can, perhaps, serve well here for the fictional essay about "Sonny's Blues." For, there are two recurring motifs in this story that have factual information which could be incorporated into a "fictional essay": drugs and music. 

So, the fictional essay can be subjective, presenting the writer's opinions with allusions to the writer's expectations, but at the same time incorporate truths. To use the motif of music, the writer could do the following:

  • Suggest how Sonny's early love of the piano has placed him in the world of the artistic life. a world that prevents him from a realistic hold on life. Because he is in this other "world," there are misunderstandings between him and his brother.
  • Music runs as a leitmotif through his life and helps him both cope with and escape the harshness of his life
  • Sonny's love and participation in the world of music reaches him at the level of soul. However, at times his soul is too fragile to deal with realities, so he turns to drugs.
  • Nevertheless, the music in Sonny, Sonny's "blues," also acts as a conduit to his redemption of the soul ('the cup of trembling" at the end--see the link below to an excellent critical essay) because it can be shared with his brother.

Along with these substantive elements from the story and allusions to real-life issues/cases, the student can then weave a fictional tale to place his ideas into a coherent whole. Beginning with a thesis statement, of course, ensures this cohesiveness. Here is an example thesis statement with music as the unifying element:

Like leitmotifs in classical musical compositions, Sonny and his brother's relationship experiences episodes of separation and return, acting both as a source of dissension and unification in their lives. From this thesis, then, the student can create fictional episodes to further explain the role of music while weaving together constructs of the actual story that support the thesis. 

Read the study guide:
Sonny's Blues

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