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The Concept of Suffering in Literature

            In Sonny's Blues, A Hunger Artist, and Omelas a common theme expressed through the characters is suffering. All of the characters experience some form of physical as well as psychological suffering. Often times the psychological suffering of a character can further induce the physical suffering. The constant weight of the suffering can be seen in their appearance. The characters' psychological anguish is displayed through how the characters look and act toward one another. In Sonny's Blues, James Baldwin expresses suffering through the characters within the story. James Baldwin is known for creating characters that are defined by "how they handle it (mental and physical suffering) is a measure of their endurance, of course, but more subtly of their creativity and their redemptive possibilities " (Lee 92). Sonny is a great example of this. He was addicted to drugs, and as such, he ended up in jail. Many people who turn to drugs are often trying to avoid the reality of their life. In their younger years the narrator and Sonny did not get along well, which is attributed to their dad favoring Sonny. Sonny seems to be seeking the love and acceptance of his brother. Sonny's response to the narrator's letter shows that Sonny still deeply cares for his brother. In the story the narrator sees one of Sonny's old acquaintances. He originally thought that it was Sonny. This event is symbolic. How the narrator views the unnamed man is how he views Sonny. He represents how Sonny used to be, "high and raggy " (Baldwin 535). This unnamed character smiles, which reminds the narrator of "what he'd looked like as a kid " (535). As the conversation carries on, the two walk into a brightly lit area. During this, the narrator sees the loss of innocence in the man, "the bright sun deadened his damp dark brown skin and it made his eyes look yellow and showed up the dirt in his kinked hair. He smelled funky " (536).

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