The story, set in a bar at a Madrid train station is about an American man and a Spanish woman having a conversation about possibilities of aborting their unborn child. The title itself bears the image of the hills symbolizing the distended stomach of a pregnant lady which captures the expectations on the side of the woman. Apart form the title, imagery is also implicit in the story. The pair is in a train station that is situated between two sides with variant features: one side is full of lush green vegetation, and the other one is dry and barren.
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Birth brings forth life while abortion leads to lifelessness. Lack of harmony between both sides symbolizes the divergent views that the man and woman have. The man opts for abortion, which in his view will bring freedom from the responsibility of child bearing and rearing while the lady cannot wait to experience the birth of her baby which will be a new beginning.
On either side of the station, there are tracks. The fact that they run parallel to each other is an implicit image for a clash of opinions between the two. Also, at the end of the story, a decision is not made just as the tracks that run parallel never meet. The couple disperses five minutes to the arrival of a train, and the reader is left wondering whether such an arrival symbolizes the birth of a baby or beginning of freedom for a young couple as envisaged by the man.
Imagery in James Baldwin’s ‘Sonny’s Blues’
‘Sonny’s Blues’ is set in Harlem where the narrator, a teacher, exposes struggles of a young man, Sonny. The struggles within members of Harlem society are symbolized in the story, particularly as a struggle between evil or darkness and light. There is turmoil between forces of good and evil in Harlem neighborhoods where youths struggle to escape from it through drugs, crime, art, or denial.
In various instances, an image of light is brought out. In the beginning, flickering headlights of a car provide illumination for the narrator as he reads about the arrest of Sonny. Towards the end, the narrator fears that bystanders will be destroyed by too much light as they stand behind the band stand. It symbolizes the care with which they should tread in their efforts to seek truth and happiness in life. This is because the world is said to be “hungry as a tiger”, symbolizing the harsh realities of life in Harlem.
Darkness symbolizes ignorance and suffering; people that are on edge seek nourishment through song, dance, and drugs. At one time the narrator mistakenly blames jazz as the cause of his brother’s addiction only to see the ‘light’ at the end when he witnesses his brother perform which serves as an awakening of sorts. After the performance, Sonny places scotch and milk on the piano, and the narrator sees the glass glow reinforcing the awakening.
Another image of light is the moonlit road which the narrator’s mother remembers as he informs her sons about an uncle who died earlier. Light symbolizes a break from the past; where their mother is ready to reveal secrets. Apart from light and darkness, ice is mentioned concerning the shock of receiving news of Sonny’s arrest. The image of ice settling on the narrator’s berry is one of an unpleasant experience for a teacher who is struggling to understand his brother and rise from upheavals in Harlem.