Messages of Sorrow, Loss and Transformation In “The Shroud” and “Sonny’s Blues”: Critical Analysis

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In “The Shroud” and “Sonny’s Blues” both the Grimm Brothers and James Baldwin created a very sympathetic story that conveys the messages of sorrow, loss and transformation but make peace at the end. There are many similarities in both of these short captivating stories and both stories are made to make the reader feel for the characters. Even though they are “short”, they really can stir up your emotions and are able to depict the difficulties of what each of the individuals went through and how they overcame it. The Shroud is about a mother who has a child that passes away and the struggles she faces not being able to get over her loss. Sonny’s Blues is about two brothers who have a very strained relationship and go through many obstacles to try to mend their relationship. Both stories sound so different but the overall message is the same. An understanding, almost can be seen as a transformation, takes place at the end for the characters in both tales and are able to find peace. In this essay, I will be giving you examples on how these two stories messages are alike.

I’m first going to be explaining the similar messages of loss and suffering in these two tales. In Sonny’s Blues, the narrator is lost and is suffering from the death of his young daughter Grace. He experienced a great deal of suffering that he had never felt before, which reminded him of his brother and what he had gone through. On page 84, it states, “I think I may have written Sonny the very day that little Grace was buried. I was sitting in the living room in the dark, by myself, and I suddenly thought of Sonny. My trouble made his real”. This allowed the narrator to sympathize with his brother and he began to understand the depth of Sonny’s suffering. From his pain and the sorrow he was going through in that moment, lead him to finally contact his brother, which started the brothers long journey to become whole again. It is said that you are able to feel connected and able to better understand those who are also suffering.

In The Shroud, the mother in the story experiences a depth of suffering she has never gone through before because her whole world came crashing down when her son passed away. On page 60, it states, “Now it so happened that he became ill, and God took him to himself; and for this the mother could not be comforted, and wept both day and night”. Another connection that I just realized is that both characters in these two stories lose their child. Her son passed away from an illness, very similar to the narrator's daughter in Sonny’s Blues, who died of polio. She loved her child very much, worshipped him above everything and everyone liked him. The mother is struggling emotionally and is battling the pain of losing her child, which makes her cry day and night.

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Now I will be explaining to you how these characters in these stories were able to overcome the many challenges they endured and able to make peace at the end. When the narrator wrote a letter to Sonny, the brothers began to communicate once again. Sonny is released from prison and stays with his brother, but this isn’t the end of the story, far from it actually. The brothers go through so many ups and downs in their relationship. Many obstacles occur, but unity is met at the end. Sonny invites his brother to his performance at the end of the story and this is when the narrator connects with his brother. When the narrator finally listens to Sonny play, he understands and accepts the meaning of his brothers life. The narrator was able to accept himself and his life as well, by accepting his brother. On page 92 and 93, it states, “Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did. Yet, there was no battle in his face now, I heard what he had gone through, and would continue to go through until he came to rest in earth”. It was an awakening for him, it feels as if he has finally discovered himself, his brother and his life. You can see how much this moment changed him. On page 93, it states, “And I was yet aware that this was only a moment, that the world waited outside, as hungry as a tiger”. He was finally able to understand Sonny through his music, which allowed for both of them to become whole. They found peace.

Over the years, Sonny suffered from being an orphan and a drug addict in a poor neighborhood. Music was the only thing he had and what helped him. Music gave Sonny an outlet to express his suffering and darkness while it also giving his life meaning. Music is what brought the brothers closer. All the conflicts these two brothers had with one another and in their lives was resolved in the pivotal scene at the end when the narrator accepts to go see his brother perform. They appreciate each other because there's an understanding between them now. Music is what let this happen since it is universal and can make people connect and feel. The narrator asked a girl to take drinks to Sonny. The girl put a Scotch and milk on top of the piano for Sonny. On page 93, it states, “He didn’t seem to notice it, but just before they started playing again, he sipped from it and looked toward me, and nodded”. The look toward his brother and nodding, in my opinion, signified that they both had a mutual agreement that they understand one another. Throughout the story, you see the journey that the narrator and his brother had to go through so that they could value their relationship, support each other and recognize the pain and sorrow they have, which lead them to become whole again. They were no longer estranged, formed a bond and can let go of all the negative feelings they had bottled up inside.

When the mother kept on weeping and crying everyday, day and night, the child that had been buried, would appear and sit in the places he used to and played. When the mother wept, so would the child, and he would leave in the morning. The mother would not stop crying and one night the child came in the middle of the night with its shroud that he had been buried with and stood at the foot at the bed and talked to her. On page 60, it states that he said, “Oh, mother, do stop crying, or I shall never fall asleep in my coffin, for my shroud will not dry because of all thy tears which fall upon it”. I believe that when he says he can’t fall asleep in his coffin, he’s really meaning his soul can’t move on and rest. The child isn’t able to be at peace while his mother is drowning in her own tears and sorrow. This is when the mother stopped her crying. The child came one last time the next night holding a little light in his hand and said, “Look, mother, my shroud is nearly dry, and I can rest in my grave now” (pg. 60). I feel that after the child told her he couldn’t fall asleep in his coffin from all her crying, it shifted something inside her. The mother knew what he meant by that and knew her son wouldn’t want her to be in this pain and keep weeping over something she can’t change. She was now able to be at peace knowing her son was at peace.

The narrator and Sonny in Sonny’s Blues and the mother in The Shroud, all suffered. They prevailed through all the hardship, and were able to walk down the path that lead to their salvation. Both messages are about sorrow, suffering and loss but are resolved when they come to peace at the end of both stories. You saw and felt their sorrow when reading the stories, and now were able to see them transform. In “The Shroud” and “Sonny’s Blues” both the Grimm Brothers and James Baldwin created a very sympathetic story that conveys the messages of sorrow, loss and transformation but make peace at the end.

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Messages of Sorrow, Loss and Transformation In “The Shroud” and “Sonny’s Blues”: Critical Analysis. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
“Messages of Sorrow, Loss and Transformation In “The Shroud” and “Sonny’s Blues”: Critical Analysis.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022,
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