A theme in a short story is the main idea that the author wants to pass to the readers. It conveys the motivation behind the authors decision to write the story as well as the revelation that is intended in so far as human nature is concerned. Aspects such as hatred, love, death, justice, abuse are among the typical features of short stories. But how do authors represent these primary ideas in a literary work? Often, the title of the story, setting, conversations of the protagonists, lessons learned by the protagonists, conflict, and symbolism, are some of the approaches used convey certain themes. In Sonnys Blues the setting, symbolism, title of the story, are sued to portray the themes of love, addiction, crime, dejection, and despondency.
The setting of the story is representative of the issues that the author wants to reveal to the reader. The choice of the neighborhood of Harlem is characteristic of the life in the area in the 1950s and 1960s.Residents of this section of New York City struggled with drug-related violence, drug addiction, and despondency. Young residents of color engaged in crime to survive amidst difficulties systematically caused by racial considerations. The narrator reveals the status of his brother and that of his who he describes as dirty and pitiable. The fact that he worked hard, and thus, secured a job shows the other side of the story that portrays the picture of some African Americans that were prosperous and successful in the neighborhood despite the difficulties. The reader identifies the themes by simply looking at Harlem in the setting of the 1950s and 1960s.
Sonnys Blues as a title of the story represents the theme of the story. The Blues implies that Sonnys life is filled with hopelessness and misery. These conditions are depicted in the narrators mental state which is full of misery not only as a result of the death of the daughter but also the inability to take care of his brother as directed by their late mother. Sonnys friend also is a representation of hopelessness as he looks unkempt but paradoxically pities the life his Sonny lives. The friend fears for Sonnys life. Further, the narrator reveals through flashback that his father had mental problems as a result of the suffering he endured due to racial discrimination. The narrator also talks of the rage in school among the students due to limited opportunities for black persons at the time.
Love is a theme that is depicted throughout the story. Sonnys friend is concerned with the kind of lifestyles he lives. He explains to the narrator about the misery of the addicted life of Sonny, a show of concern and love to his friend. The story also shows how brotherly love triumphs in spite of the challenges. The narrator sends correspondence to Sonny while he was serving a sentence for possessing heroin. He does not give up on his brother as can be seen in the decision to school him as a musician, which he completed. The narrator does these acts not because the mother instructed him to do so but as a show of the love he had for the brother. Moreover, love is expressed in the manner the mother urges the narrator to take care of his brother because she also did take care of their father in spite of the bad behaviors.
Symbolism is prominent as a way of representing the theme of the story. The incarceration of Sonny is signified in the chains of both mental and physical confinements the people of color underwent at the time. The father of the narrator went through mental incarceration as a result of racial discrimination. Also, the friend of Sonny is incarcerated in the sense that he represents the addiction and dereliction black communities went through during the 50s and the 60s.The narrator can be considered to be in prison due the struggle to solve the issue of his brother. Symbolism also is depicted by the use of the trembling cup which is a reference to the Bible about the tribulations the human race must undergo while living on earth. The trembling cup denotes the rage among the students of the narrator who envisage little opportunities in a system that is managed based on racial profiles.
The story ends with a revelation about human nature. The revelation sums up the principal idea of the story which centers on love. That amidst of the difficulties, resolve and care can make people succeed no matter the circumstances.
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