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Lecture 15

ENG 208 Lecture Notes - Lecture 15: Hear Music, Newsprint


Department
English
Course Code
ENG 208
Professor
Thomas Phillips
Lecture
15

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Lecture 15: 3/14/17
“Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin
What is this story about?
o This is a story about paths
o Suffering
o Music
Silencethe opposite of music
Listeningwhat music absolutely requires
o The African American struggle
Racism
o Family
o Responsibility
o Darkness
Darkness
o “I read about it in the paper, in the subway, on my way to work. I read it, and I
couldn't believe it, and I read it again. Then perhaps I just stared at it, at the
newsprint spelling out his name, spelling out the story. I stared at it in the
swinging lights of the subway car, and in the faces and bodies of the people, and
in my own face, trapped in the darkness which roared outside” (Baldwin)
Trappedin the world, in his own life
Inner darkness
o “They were filled with rage. All they really knew were two darknesses, the
darkness of their lives, which was now closing in on them, and the darkness of the
movies, which had blinded them to that other darkness” (Baldwin)
Baldwin pushing readers to think metaphorically right from the first page
Darkness of society
Movies/art as an escape from darkness
o “For a moment nobody's talking, but every face looks darkening, like the sky
outside. And my mother rocks a little from the waist, and my father's eyes are
closed. Everyone is looking at something a child can't see. For a minute they've
forgotten the children. Maybe a kid is lying on the rug, half asleep. Maybe
somebody's got a kid in his lap and is absent-mindedly stroking the lad's head.
Maybe there's a kid, quiet and big-eyed, curled up in a big chair in the comer. The
silence, the darkness coming, and the darkness in the faces frighten the child
obscurely. He hopes that the hand which strokes his forehead will never stop-will
never die. […] But something deep and watchful in the child knows that this is
bound to end, is already ending. In a moment someone will get up and turn on the
light. Then the old folks will remember the children and they won't talk any more
that day. And when light fills the room, the child is filled with darkness. He
knows that every time this happens he's moved just a little closer to that darkness
outside. The darkness outside is what the old folks have been talking about. It's
what they've come from. It's what they endure” (Baldwin)
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