tells of seeing his brother play piano in a jazz club, and of sending up to his brother a drink—a mixture of Scotch whiskey and milk. As the story closes this unusual mixture sets atop Sonny’s piano “like the very cup of trembling. ” Discuss how this drink serves as a symbolic conclusion to Baldwin’s story. How does it symbolize for the reader the resolution, or synthesis, of various tensions in the story? Indeed what are the main lines of tension, opposition, and division in “Sonny’s Blues”? At the end of the story, the narrator describes a glass sitting over Sonny’s piano as shaking “like the very cup of trembling” to highlight what a difficult and complicated position Sonny is in. This image is borrowed from the Bible, where the cup of trembling is used as a symbol to describe the suffering and fear that have plagued the people. The biblical passage promises a relief from that suffering, but Baldwin’s use of the cup of trembling as a symbol is less overt. * Sonny’s drinking from the cup of trembling serves as a reminder of all the suffering he has endured, while also offering the chance for redemption and peace.
As a musician, Sonny takes all his suffering and that of those around him and transforms it into something beautiful. * Like the figures from the Bible, Sonny is moving toward salvation, but his fate remains uncertain. Perhaps he will continue to suffer, suffering being the cost he has to pay for being a musician. There is something Christ like about Sonny’s pain, and suffering for Sonny is at once inevitable and redemptive * At the end of the story, it remains unclear whether he will continue to suffer in order to play his music or whether a greater peace and redemption awaits everyone involved.
The fact that the glass is filled with scotch and milk only further highlights the tension and duality Sonny faces. SUFFERING QUOTE A great block of ice got settled in my belly and kept melting there slowly all day long, while I taught my classes algebra. It was a special kind of ice. . . . Sometimes it hardened and seemed to expand until I felt my guts were going to come spilling out or that I was going to choke or scream. (12)| People don’t always outwardly express their anguish. The narrator’s suffering is immense (it threatens to overpower him here), but he can’t just fall apart.
Perhaps his suffering is made even greater because this great, big block of ice just stays where it is. He can’t get it out of his system. SUFFERING QUOTE “Tell me,” I said at last, “why does he want to die? He must want to die, he’s killing himself, why does he want to die? ” (38)| The narrator is making a desperate plea with this unanswerable question. He can’t imagine anyone doing what Sonny has done to himself unless he no longer has the will to live. He just wants to know “why? ” His suffering is as great as Sonny’s here. SUFFERING QUOTE
You don’t know how much I needed to hear from you. I wanted to write you many a time but I dug how much I must have hurt you and so I didn’t write. But now I feel like a man who’s been trying to climb out of some deep, real deep and funky hole and just saw the sun up there, outside. I got to get outside. (127)| Sonny suffers on multiple levels. He suffers from his drug addiction and from being stuck in jail. But he also suffers from the knowledge that he’s hurt his family and that, because of this, he didn’t dare reach out to them even when he needed to the most.
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