Example research essay topic: Importance Of Of Symbolism As A Literary Technique In Short Stories – 726 words

In the story “Sonnys Blues” by James Baldwin, we
see many uses of symbolism. Symbolism is the most
critical literary technique that Baldwin uses to
achieve the intense connection to the characters
that the reader feels in “Sonnys Blues”. “Sonnys
Blues” is a story about the relationship of two
brothers and how they deal with their two
different lives. This story is also about a family
member coping with another family members
addiction. The first metaphor we are exposed to in
this story is found in the second paragraph, “A
great block of Ice settled in my belly and kept
melting there all day long, while I taught my
classes algebra. It was a special kind of ice.

kept melting, sending trickles of ice water all up
and down my veins, but it never got less.
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.”(47). With
this quotation the reader achieves a direct
connection with the narrator. The symbolism of ice
representing pain is an excellent metaphor because
it allows the reader to feel the narrators pain.
If the reader actually had a brother who was
caught doing Heroin in a raid, Baldwin could
achieve this emotional response by saying, “I felt
just like I did the day I found out my brother was
doing Heroin.” Most of the general population has
not had this experience. Therefore, when Baldwin
uses the ice to describe the pain as a feeling
that will not go away despite the fact that he
must teach his students algebra, the reader feels
exactly what Sonnys brother is feeling at the
time. The use of symbolism in “Sonnys Blues” is
very effective in conveying emotion to the reader.
One example other than the “ice metaphor” is when
Sonny and his brother are riding in a cab and they
head uptown in New York City, towards Harlem. The
two brothers ride silently in the cab as they were
reflecting upon Harlem where they had both grown

Both Sonny and the Narrator are looking for an
“escape” from Harlem. The narrator feels that he
has escaped by becoming a school teacher. Sonny
had tried to escape from Harlem through drug use
and eventually finds his true “escape” through
music. While the two brothers are riding in this
cab together the narrator comes to a revelation
about their differences which is eloquently
written by Baldwin, “Yet as the cab moved uptown
through streets which seemed, with a rush, to
darken with dark people, and as I covertly studied
Sonnys face it came to me that what we were both
seeking through our separate cab windows was that
part of us which had been left behind”(53). This
is another example of the critical use of the
metaphor in order for the reader to feel the same
emotions that the characters are feeling. If
Baldwin had written this any other way, the true
emotional response of returning home under
negative circumstances would not have been

When Baldwin describes this cab ride the
reader is immediately catapulted into the mind of
the narrator who is trying to figure out his
brother that is so entirely different from himself
and yet is still of his own flesh and blood. Near
the end of the story Baldwin gives us some insight
into Sonnys passion for his music. Once again the
excellent use of symbolism and imagery leave
nothing to the imagination. When Sonny goes to
live with Isabel he plays her piano, and he plays
it all the time. He learns to improvise along with
the radio and practices furiously, “but it was as
though he were all wrapped up in a some cloud,
some fire, some vision all his own; and there
wasnt any way to reach him.”(61). This quotation
is representative of the struggle that the
narrator has with understanding his brother
throughout the entire story.

Through Baldwins
superior writing skill the reader can relate to
the problem of two brothers trying to find a
common ground. In short, the story “Sonnys Blues”
is a story about two brothers trying to see
eye-to- eye, yet the vehicle which carries this
story into the heart of the reader is the
metaphor, which is used flawlessly by James

Research essay sample on Importance Of Of Symbolism As A Literary Technique In Short Stories