Why does "Sonny's Blues" begin with in medias res?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As Kip Wheeler Ph.D. says, "Usually in medias res is a technique used to heighten dramatic tension or to create a sense of mystery." The technique of in medias res, Latin for in the middle, allows the narrator, whether third or first person, to introduce background events in strategic positions through flashbacks for dramatic or mysterious effect. An example is when the narrator in "Sonny's Blues" flashes back to the boys youthful anger at the inferiority assigned to them by social and cultural constraints and to the escape--the forgetfulness--from their anger that they found in movies. In addition, in medias res allows for a condensed, compressed recounting of extensive background material so that a dramatic kernel of a life-long story can be told with a heightened impact as a short story that has a keen, undiluted impact and focuses on an individual important theme.