What does the window symbolize in "Sonny's Blues"?

The windows in "Sonny Blues" symbolize the world of pain that surrounds the story's characters.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The narrator and Sonny both look through windows at various times in the story. What they see is not a window into a world of possibility and a vista of new horizons, but windows that look out at a world in pain. Windows are a symbol of the pain and...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The narrator and Sonny both look through windows at various times in the story. What they see is not a window into a world of possibility and a vista of new horizons, but windows that look out at a world in pain. Windows are a symbol of the pain and limitation that face the characters in the story because they were born Black in the US in the mid-twentieth century.

When the narrator, Sonny's brother, looks out of his window, he sees the sad lawn and hedge that can't keep the "street" out of his apartment project. When Sonny opens a window, he smells the stink of garbage in the alley below. Windows are a backdrop to the narrator's mother talking about the dangers and pain that face even good and smart young Black men like Sonny.

When Sonny and his brother look out the window near the end of the story, they hear music. It is lovely to listen to, but Sonny ruminates on the pain it arises out of—the pain that permeates the Black world. But for the first time, we get an inkling that there can be beauty mingled with the pain:

He turned back to the window. "No, there's no way not to suffer. But you try all kinds of ways to keep from drowning in it, to keep on top of it, and to make it seem-well, like you. Like you did something, all right, and now you're suffering for it."
This foreshadows the way that, at the end of the story, at the jazz club, Sonny uses his music to make meaning from his pain. The story makes clear that on the other side of the windowpane, suffering predominates—but is tangled with love. Sonny
turned back to the window, looking out. "All that hatred down there," he said, "all that hatred and misery and love. It's a wonder it doesn't blow the avenue apart."
Windows are symbol of the pain that surrounds the characters, but by the end of the story, the narrator is beginning to see the way the pain can be used by people like Sonny to make art and transcend itself.
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on