In Manchild in the Promised Land, what does Sonny dream about after he is shot?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 1 of Manchild in the Promised Land main character Sonny is shot in the leg at the age of 13. As the title of the work implies, Sonny is no ordinary 13 year old, but a problematic juvenile whose run ins with the law has left him in the situation where he is now.

After attempting to get help at the fish and chip shop, Sonny understands the danger of his situation and is almost sure that he is going to die. Once at the hospital, induced by the morphine that was given to him to soothe his pain, Sonny had several nightmares, mainly concerning his past. First, he sees himself lying in a pool of blood with many "Mamas screaming and shouting in despair".

As the nightmare progressed he also sees a man described as

the boy who Rock and big Stoop had thrown off that roof on 149th Street.

Sonny claims that he never saw the boy actually die, but he did remember the pool of blood that the body was on top of.

 I wished that Mama would stop screaming. I wished they would let me die quietly

Sonny continues with his nightmare of bad memories, remembering how his Dad gave his brother Pimp a beating with an ironing cord for writing on the wall on the tenement where they lived; he also remembers the cries of his brother, and his mother.

Ironically, that "dilapidated" building was ridden with violence, drugs, and lowlifes. It was a place where people shot each other, and even his Super split a man's head open with a baseball bat. This place, Sonny thought, was the place he loved the most in this world and he feared never seeing this place again.

He also has a nightmare of him, seven years earlier, getting into his parents room thinking there was an air raid, or a war with the Japanese or the Germans. To this, he remembers his father answering:

"This ain't no air raid -- just a whole lotta n**gers gone fool. And git the hell back in that bed!"

Then his dream focuses on that one riot; it was true, after all, that it was a bunch of men acting crazy. The riot was the looting of the local supermarket and different stores just for the joyride. There are police in his dream, but Sonny's mind is too muffled with morphine to make them out perfectly. He dreams later that he went to steal at Mr. Gordon's grocery store, lost the oysters that he stole, but the mere fact of robbing and committing the robbery was a total thrill.

The importance of these series of dreams is that they represent a LITERAL journey into the inner personality and psyche of who Sonny really is: he is not as troubled as he is malicious. He has a natural tendency to prefer chaos, and he only understands his world, at 13, as a very chaotic world. The nightmares are basically a summary of life, as he knows it.

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Manchild in the Promised Land

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