Paul's Case

"I think people ought to do what they want to do, what else are they alive for. (49)" This thought is what is reflected in both "Sonny?s Blues" by James Baldwin and "Paul?s Case" by Willa Cather. Both Baldwin and Cather illustrate the problem of a young man growing up and taking on the responsibility of finding out who they are and what they want out of life. In these stories the theme is most prevalent, developing the story and helping the reader form their own opinions on how they feel about their own individuality. No matter how hard someone tries to decide someone?s life, it is up to the individual to decide what kind of life they want to live.
In "Sonny?s Blues" Sonny was the youngest child in his family and after his parents died when he was young his big brother made a promise that he would look after him. Unfortunately, Sonny chooses the wrong path at first and gets involved in drugs and has to go to a rehabilitation center to get better. After he gets out his brother asks him "What do you want to do?"(47), to which Sonny replies "I?m going to be a musician. (47)" Sonny?s brother doubts his aspirations from the beginning and even tells himself that "(he) never played the role of the older brother quite so seriously before (47)." Sonny?s brother is a teacher and you can tell by his instincts how much he want to teach Sonny things about life in general. By playing the "roles" of parent, big brother, and teacher, Sonny?s brother constantly stresses how he wants his brother to turn out. In the end Sonny?s brother should have listened to himself when he told his mother that "(Sonny is) a good boy and he?s got good sense (45)" so that he would of trusted Sonny more to make his own decisions.
In "Paul?s Case" Paul was the only child in his family and because his mother died he has only his father?s influence on his life. We join Paul in the story while he is getting in trouble, much like how Sonny was in trouble at first. Much like "Sonny?s Blues" Paul sees himself facing his teachers and they are questioning him as to why he was misbehaving. At one point a teacher inquires about a remark that Paul had made, Paul replied, "I didn?t mean to be polite or impolite either. I guess it?s a sort of way I have about saying things regardless. (401)" The teacher influences in the stories feel dissatisfied with their influences on the boys, but they are not taking into account that they cannot force these boys to grow up faster than they want to grow up themselves. They can only hope to point them in the right direction.
"Sonny?s Blues" sets the story in Harlem, New York. The city of Harlem does a lot to develop how the theme of the story influences Sonny. Sonny grew up around drug dealers in what would be thought of as the typical low-income slum of the city. Sonny does experience the life of his peers, getting involved in drugs and going to the rehab center. Sonny did not let this affect the outcome of the rest of his life, he learned from his mistakes, thought about what he did while he was in rehabilitation and decided on a better path for his life.
Paul attended Pittsburgh High School and where he lived had made him already decide on a better life for himself. He was very conscious of his surroundings and didn?t like the life on "Cordelia Street." Every time he came home "he experienced the physical depression, the loathing of respectable beds, of common food, of a house penetrated by kitchen odors," he hated Cordelia Street. Paul in his story seems to think about his life more than Sonny, this is evident whenever he steps foot onto Cordelia street. "The nearer he approached the house, the more absolutely unequal Paul felt to the sight of it all; his ugly sleeping chamber; the cold bathroom with the grimy zinc tub, the cracked mirror?(405)." He wanted a different life, and had always planned escape Cordelia Street and achieves the life he wanted.
Sonny decided that he wanted to be a musician, and the distraction of his brother was