“They were filled with rage. All they really knew were two darknesses, the darkness of their lives, which was now closing in on them, and the darkness of the movies ,which had blinded them to that other darkness, and in which they now, vindictively, dreamed, at once more together than they were at any other time, and more alone.”
Sonny’s Blues, James Baldwin 1957
I stumbled upon this quote one morning as my friend and coworker was reading James Baldwin’s short story Sonny’s Blues for her English Composition 2 class. The office was moving slow, the phones were barely ringing and, it being friday, all our other duties were complete, I myself was passing the time doing some filling and she, my coworker, was working on homework for her college classes. She said she had to read a short story and I, being the lover of literature that I am, asked her to read aloud.
She read, our little office was filled by the sound of her voice reading Baldwin’s words off the page and as I filed I was taken into the story. Then we came across these words that I have quoted above. At first, they made an impact on us because of their description of the characters that it was referring to. After analysing it, the true power and meaning of these words was apparent to me.
The author was speaking about young boys living and struggling in a world surrounded by drugs and violence and before these sentences he speaks of how the boys did have some dreams at one point but the reality arround them denied them of dreaming something better for themselves. Baldwin wrote: “they were growing up with a rush and their heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities.”
These sentences made an impact in me because of their truth. Everyone has a dream or an accomplishment they want to fulfill in life but life’s struggles, hardships, and misfortunes make those dreams become just faint memories as time passes. This is where the darkness that Baldwin speaks of sets in. It arrives at the lives of those who have been battered by disgrace like the slow-moving morning mist that subtly sets atop chilly lakes in the fall. Except this darkness does not dissipate like the morning mist as the sun comes out, it keeps growing thicker and more possessive of the person’s dream and aspiration until this person, this victim has no dream and conforms with what he sees around him, which in the case of the boys from the story is drug usage.
Baldwin wrote this story in the late 1950’s, and we are still seeing this today.Who would believe twenty years ago that a generation so advanced in technology is still a dream killer for many young people whose heads have “bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities”?