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Sonny’s Blues: Pathos, Ethos, And Logos Modes Of Persuasion

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James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” is a great narrative since it incorporates different themes that include life choices, friendly relations, and second chances. “Sonny’s Blues” is a fictional storyline that narrates real-life situations and sufferings. Baldwin effectively provides an understanding not only in Sonny’s life but also into his environments, making the narrative unique in its nature. “Sonny’s Blues” is the best reading because Baldwin connects the audience with all of the characters while also focusing on human suffering, which is the most significant aspect that all audiences can relate to.

Baldwin illustrates how society reflected on how the narrator had succeeded in life by being a teacher, having a wife and two children and thus, showcasing the low living standards of the African American community. Despite being considered as successful, he is always cognizant of Harlem’s gloomy life which is more hazardous. The narrator comprehends the exposed drug dealings that take place in exposed fields near housing schemes, the vanishings of longstanding households and his brother’s constant conflict with the environment. In the narration, Baldwin effectively frames the struggles within a broader framework, positioning him in crime, drug abuse and poverty which are epidemics of the entire society.

Unlike the reading “Superman” by Julie Feiffer, Baldwin has effectively utilized various modes of persuasion in “Sonny’s Blues” to connect with the audience on certain realities that occur in life. He begins by establishing his ethos in the introductory paragraph. He connects himself to his audience as a fellow American citizen who is patriotic and wishes for the well-being of the nation. Although he classifies the main distress of his audience as the anxiety of communalist, he suggests that the main aspect of anxiety in the American society is cruelty and depraved conviction of different generations. He also institutes his ethos by being aware of the surroundings and connects with his audience by revealing how he is fully aware of society’s dark side. Additionally, Baldwin connects to his audience by revealing how he tries to ignore societal challenges by not allowing any tragedy to affect his consciousness, which is typical for individuals who live within a depraved society.

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The narrator also establishes pathos by describing the suffering faced by society and Sonny. Suffering is the main theme in “Sonny’s Blues” as it reflects the suffering most African American youths endure in an immoral environment. The narrator connects with the audience by reflecting on how fearful he was for high school students who lived in urban black life in New York neighborhood. He reflects his pathos by reflecting on the miserable futures of how his school students would have to face violence, live with drug addicts, and possibly live with low expectations of achieving higher opportunities.

Baldwin institutes logos by revealing how distress or individual anguish is a critical element of the black community, predominately in the New York neighborhoods. He portrays Harlem to be a trap since it is an area full of viciousness and anguishes and its inhabitants hardly escape the intensified discrimination and bias experiences. He also establishes logos by exploring the methods in which the sufferings have ruined people’s lives, especially due to the individuals’ inability to openly communicate about their sufferings. Baldwin demonstrates how isolated miseries and distresses transform individuals to become hostile and vicious, negatively affects their relationship with others including their families and influences individuals to get ill, addicted to drugs or even die because of intensified psychological trauma.

Additionally, Baldwin’s read was the best since he effectively reveals the negative effects of suffering through Sonny. Although Sonny was able to communicate about his anguish and agony, he appeared to be overcome by anguish, which influenced him to be an addict, get into trouble with the law and have a momentary disaffection from his brother. Baldwin effectively demonstrates that he could not assure Sonny an easy evasion to his suffering, but he provides suggestions on how Sonny’s anguish could be reduced. He realizes, at the Jazz club, the significance of conveying one’s misery and anguish to enable them to control their suffering by revealing how Sonny’s friendship with the musicians relieved him from his overwhelming suffering.

In conclusion, the pathos, ethos, and logos modes of persuasion used by Baldwin are effectively used in “Sonny’s Blues” compared to the establishment of pathos, logos and ethos used by David Foster Wallace in “Good People.” Baldwin’s read is more interesting since he has connected with the audience about typical anxieties most individuals have about the future of their children unlike Foster’s reading which only establishes suspense and also leaves the audience in an adjourned state. “Sonny’s Blues” is also the best read since it provides the hope of revival. This is even after describing the overwhelming suffering experienced by African Americans in Harlem by disclosing how Sonny was able to overcome his misery challenges.

Works Cited

  1. Baldwin, James. “Sonny’s Blues.” The Norton Introduction to Literature: Shorter 13th Edition, edited by Kelly J. Mays, W. W. Norton & Company, 2018, pp. 91-113.
  2. Feiffer, Jules. “Superman.” The Norton Introduction to Literature: Shorter 13th Edition, edited by Kelly J. Mays, W. W. Norton & Company, 2018, pp. 24.
  3. Wallace, David Foster. “Good People.” The Norton Introduction to Literature: Shorter 13th Edition, edited by Kelly J. Mays, W. W. Norton & Company, 2018, pp. 245-250.

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Sonny’s Blues: Pathos, Ethos, And Logos Modes Of Persuasion. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from
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