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    “Trumpet Player” by Langston Hughes and “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin

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    The two stories that I have decided to analyze are “Trumpet Player” by Langston Hughes and “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin. In “Trumpet Player,” Langston Hughes describes an African- American man who is playing the trumpet. Throughout that poem, he uses several words and metaphors to engage the reader into what the trumpet player is feeling. I believe that it was Hughes’ main goal to make sure that you experienced what you were reading because it is extremely difficult to read things that do not have you engaged. He also used music within this poem to express the struggle of this man and so many others at the time. James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” is pretty similar to that of “Trumpet Player.” Throughout “Sonny’s Blues” the man who is being followed is struggling with how to deal with his brother, who is addicted to drugs and has been in jail wrestling these issues. Sonny, the man’s brother, gets out of jail and expresses that all he really wants to be is a musician.

    Throughout the story we get taken through all of the struggles that both of these men face, and then eventually at the end Sonny finally performs in front of his brother. Through Baldwin’s use of expressive words, we get to see how Sonny releases his own blues by playing music. Throughout both of these amazing pieces of literature, the authors creatively fabricate a style that brings you through a passionate roller coaster of music. The musical vernacular portrayed throughout both pieces brings the readers feelings to a peak and allows the reader to feel the blues. Differently from one another, in “Trumpet Player, you are thrown right into the emotion and you see immediately what the issues are in the poem. In “Sonny’s Blues” you are taken on the whole journey of where the struggles come from and why music is the outlet for emotion.

    “Trumpet Player” uses music as a way to express emotion to a particular situation in history. The specific situation that he uses is slavery. In the poem, the very first stanza states, “The Negro, with the trumpet at his lips, beneath his eyes where the smoldering memory of slave ships, blazed to the crack of whips about thighs.” Right from the start this shows that this man playing the trumpet is remembering the pain and suffering that had been placed on him due to slavery.

    After we see this weariness, Hughes brings in a sigh of relief to show that this music may be able to help. “The music from the trumpet at his lips is honey, mixed with liquid fire, the rhythm from the trumpet at his lips is ecstasy, distilled from old desire,” shows that by starting to play the trumpet he is becoming a bit more pleased with his own feelings. By describing the music as honey with liquid fire, he shows that the music feels good, but it is really powerful to him at the same time. Then finally at the end we see that the African- American that is playing the trumpet has found peace within the music, “it’s hypodermic needle to his soul, but softly as the tune comes from his throat, trouble mellows to a golden note.” This is such a great passage from the poem because it still shows that outside of the music he is suffering, but right now he is so engaged into the music that he is playing that he loves the feeling he gets from it.

    We also see throughout the poem that the trumpet player has a longing to be better than what he is. Hughes uses the sea as a way to describe just how big the trumpet players ambitions really are. I believe that throughout “Trumpet Player” we see the use of music in a positive way. Langston Hughes is continuously using musical vernacular to express a positive feeling through music. The only time the use of negativity is seen is in the first stanza where Hughes is trying to make sure that the reader is able to clearly see what is troubling this African- American man.

    “Sonny’s Blues” is similar to “Trumpet Player” in that there is a struggle to begin with. Unlike “Trumpet Player,” Sonny’s Blues” takes you on a journey to see just how music becomes an outlet for this one man. It starts off with Sonny being put into jail due to a struggle with drugs. The narrator does not really want to contact Sonny, who is his brother, but eventually does get into contact with him. Once Sonny is out of jail, he expresses that he wants to pursue music, but is shut down by his brother. Finally, Sonny is able to get into music, and this is where we see Baldwin really showing that music has a power to help people from suffering. Not only do we see all of Sonny’s struggles come out through music, but we see his brother come to a realization that this was a great thing for Sonny.

    This passage really shows how deeply moved Sonny’s brother was just by hearing him play this music, “I heard what he had gone through, and would continue to go through until he came to rest in earth. He had made it his: that long line, of which we knew only Mama and Daddy. And he was giving back, as everything must be given back, so that, passing through death, it can live forever. I saw my mother’s face again, and felt, for the first time, how the stones of the road she had walked must have bruised her feet. I saw the moonlit road where my father’s brother died. And it brought something else back to me, and carried me past it, I saw my little girl again and felt Isabel’s tears again, and I felt my own tears begin to rise.

    And I was yet aware that this was only a moment, that the world waited outside, as hungry as a tiger, and that trouble stretched above us, longer than the sky.” This is, I believe, the most powerful [passage from the story. It shows just how moved he was because of music, and it was almost like he was able to feel feelings for the first time in a long time. This shows how positive James Baldwin portrayed music throughout the story.

    In conclusion, these two powerful pieces of African- American literature show similar yet different ways that music effects people. They bring the readers on different paths to reach an emotional climax through the music that is helping people in the stories. Through “Trumpet Player” we saw that music can take you from pain and suffering of a historical situation and can make you feel great. The trumpet player in this story was suffering from memories of the past, and music made him forget. The use of metaphors dragged in the reader and makes them able to feel the music in themselves.

    In “Sonny’s Blues” music made Sonny’s brother remember things, and it made Sonny himself a much better man than he was before music. The music made his brother feel things again, things that he never really got to feel for before. Not only does music save Sonny, but in many ways, it saved his brother. The journey we were taken on in “Sonny’s Blues” with music is slightly different than that of “Trumpet Player” because we get pretty emotionally attached in “Sonny’s Blues.” In “Trumpet Player” we just know of what has happened in the past, and Langston Hughes uses that sympathy that the reader should already have to bring the connection of emotion and music.

    Both of these authors use creative styles and manipulate them to show how music effects people in many different situations. Music can help you forget things that need to be forgotten for a short period of time, but it can also give you the emotion to actual think clearly about traumatizing things that have happened. In both of these pieces, the authors use music to create emotion within the reader themselves. Although the two styles of writing are different, both authors gave off the same positive view of music and what music can do.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    “Trumpet Player” by Langston Hughes and “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin. (2022, Nov 29). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/trumpet-player-by-langston-hughes-and-sonnys-blues-by-james-baldwin/

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