As you read the story, note the many references to light and dark imagery. ( An example is the title: “Sonny” suggests “sunny” which suggests light. “Blues” is linked usually with hardship and with an African-American past, so “blues” suggests darkness. Even the first paragraph refers to “the darkness which roared outside” (91).) So many references don’t happen just by accident, so make note of them.
Prompt: Who is telling the story? What kind of person is he? What is his occupation–and why do you think Baldwin gives him that? Why do you think Baldwin chooses him to narrate? Why not Sonny?
Then go on to cite two examples of light and two examples of dark in the story. (Include page numbers–as I did above.) Write a paragraph about what you believe Baldwin is doing with the motif of light and dark. Note: would an African-American writer be likely to embrace stereotypical views of dark being “bad” and light being “good”?
Warning: those of you who have the impulse to google “‘Sonny’s Blues’ light dark motif”: beware! Some of these “analyses” are pretty simplistic and misguided.
I urge you to come up with your own list, mull over the list, and if you can’t come up with a neat explanation, that’s ok. But please show me you’ve read carefully and thought about the question! I’ll give you my thoughts later–but I’m really looking for your process of analyzing this pattern–and trying to understand the story more deeply.