Grace Garvin English 4 Mrs. Korber Literary Response Sonny's Escape Sonny depended on his music as an escape. Sonny escaped to get away from Harlem and to have control in his life. Sonny says "It makes you-feel in control. Sometimes you got to have that feeling." (Henderson, Day, Waller 121) He was comparing the similar feelings that heroin gave him, the feeling he felt when he was playing music. Control was the key importance to Sonny, a person who felt that his life was being guided down a typical path for a black man living in Harlem. His addiction for heroin was as real as his addiction for his music.
Sonny's brother did not see a future for Sonny as a musician. His brother took a long time to really understand Sonny's need for music. During the brothers sporadic relationship Sonny's brother saw "anguish" and a "trapped" look in Sonny's eyes (Henderson, Day, Waller 116).
That look in Sonny's eyes was a result of living a strangled life in Harlem. For example Sonny's dreams was sidetracked by his use of heroin, which put him in jail. Hypothetically, if Sonny had the chance to live in Morningside Heights a rich upper class city neighboring Harlem, he probably would not have been introduced to heroin and its "evils." He was becoming a product of his surrounding environment.
Garvin 2 To Sonny, Harlem, his hometown, was a constant reminder his past. The smell of the garbage was always lurking around the streets""" I'm sick of the stink of these garbage cans (Henderson, Day, Waller 117)." The smell of the streets of Harlem reminded Sonny of a time that his life was at a low point. Sonny describes a "stink" to be so powerful that it "locked" him in that world where he was trapped. The "stink" that was overpowering Sonny at his low point has both a physical and mental meaning to him (124). Sonny physically had a smell on him that was a result of him not showering and sweating from the drug he was on. Mentally the stench was a combination of all the bad decisions he made. Sonny wanted to get rid of his addiction to heroin so he ran as far as he could from Harlem, but when he returned, he could not change. The "stink" was not a part of Sonny, but the chances of a relapse of his addiction still haunted him.
Harlem was not an easy place to grow up in, especially for those who lived in the projects. Their morale was very low in the poverty-stricken parts of Harlem: on the other hand, it was the location for the Harlem Renaissance. It fueled a major change of thinking towards African-Americans living in the United States. Harlem harbored people rich in knowledge, but as a contrast the people were financially poor. Sonny describes Harlem by saying "All the hatred and misery and love. It's a wonder it doesn't blow the whole world apart (Henderson, Day, Waller 124)." His description of Harlem mirrors his life. Sonny's love for his music was his escape from his hatred towards his past and his misery of knowing his ability to relapse into his addiction. Sonny was "piano playing" for a Garvin 3 dream (124). Sonny's dream to become a great musician gave him hope that his music would help him escape the pre-decided endings of a black man in Harlem.
Sonny was not the only one trying to escape. Other African American were studying ""ÃÂ¦Politics, art, literature, music, science, the social sciences and every aspect of American life"ÃÂ¦" The African-Americans came to Harlem, because it was a safe place that was predominantly black, occupied by people of their own race. They flocked to Harlem because they were able to get, "respite from racial prejudice." (Thurman 1) Americans were still getting used to the idea of equality between blacks and whites. Freedom was one of the many purposes of the Harlem Renaissance. "Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us be free if we would listen (Henderson, Day, Waller 127)." That is when Sonny's brother finally understands the power and control that Sonny gained from his music. His escape was a passage into a new age of freedom for all people. Sonny's music and the music of other fellow musicians, writers, and artists acted as leaders of a new life for all people who were repressed. A connection that would be made through all races could be reached by the music Sonny was playing.