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Stories like “Sonny’s Blues” and “Conversion of the Jews” serve a significant role in documenting attitudes and behaviors of the youth, and the society they live in. In Sonny’s Blues, we see how teenagers could be misled due to the difficulties they encounter in their society. It also shows how their society contribute to the hardships they experience. In The Conversion of the Jews, we also see how the society affects the way the main character, Ozzie Freedman thinks and behaves.
The story gives us an idea on how minors react to the people and situations in their society, how they handle things and make mistakes in doing so.
Sonny’s Blues is narrated by a first person narrator, which could be assumed as Sonny’s elder brother. He is an Algebra teacher who has taken care of Sonny only to find out one day that the latter is involved in drug addiction. In the story, the narrator expresses his disappointment of Sonny, the reason why he does not contact his young brother when the latter is imprisoned.
When the narrator’s daughter dies of polio, he sees Sonny and reunites with him. When Sonny is released from prison, the elder brother admits him in his house, and tries to mend their relationship.
In this text, the Sonny’s character epitomizes a young lad in need of guidance. As a teenager, Sonny is fond of music and longs to find company who would understand the way he thinks.
Unfortunately, he does not find that in his brother, nor in the society of his brother. Instead, he finds that somewhere else, which leads to a path apart from his brother. Sonny’s situation is much like many of our youth today. They try to find people who could understand their thoughts and feelings, but they end up with people in the streets who are similarly astray.
Most often, their families cannot understand what they want so they seek other people who could fill in the void. Many youngsters nowadays are much like Sonny. They refuse to go to school; instead they want to be in a band. Just look at the famous boybands or group singers nowadays, e. g. , Westlife, A1, etc. A good number of our youth develop love for music just like the character in the story. Sometimes they start to form a band and jam. Then, they develop some vices, which they think are “in. ” If one does not conform to what others are doing, he is considered an outcast.
However, if the people in the family would only understand the youngster, he would not go somewhere else to comfort him. He would not seek for attention outside his home. In the story, Sonny loses contact with his brother when he is asked to live with the family of his brother’s wife (Isabel’s family). Since the family does not understand him, he looks for other people’s company. This is how he is misled. Just like him, many young people are misled due most often to the inability of their family to understand them. If Sonny’s brother does not leave him after getting married, chances are, he would not have gone astray.
Similarly, the story, The Conversion of the Jews depicts the way adults do not understand the youth. In the story, Ozzie is confused of what to believe in. He does not conform with his Hebrew teacher’s belief that Jesus was conceived through natural method. Instead, he believes that since God is so powerful, He can make such a miracle happen—which is a Catholic view. Having a mind of his own, Ozzie is determined to stand by what he believes in, even though this could mean waging war with the elders. Ozzie mirrors the young children by his curious and naughty behavior.
He is curious to learn about things, especially those concerning God or things that are not clear to him. He longs to find the secret behind Jesus’ existence, and wonders about the power of God, just like many children. He portrays a naughty boy who does not think before he acts, and is often driven by his emotions. Such is seen when he is trying to hide from his teacher. Like Sonny, Ozzie does not care where the path would lead him, as long as that path is not directed towards his teacher. He also tries to run away from those who do not understand him, and seeks understanding and affection from those he loves.
Also, just like Sonny, Ozzie confronts the problem of not being understood. Although he is much younger than Sonny, Ozzie already faces the problem many of our youth encounter. Specifically, his own mother does not understand him while his teacher and his playmates all the more disagree with him. Despite their disagreement, Ozzie is confident of what he thinks, and wins at the end in making the adults—his detractors, agree to what he believes in. He does this with his impish nature, which also mimics children who are very creative in such ways.
At the end, the scene where Ozzie outsmarts his mother and his teacher may seem impossible but this presents other characteristics of the youth. One characteristic it signifies is the ability of the youth to outsmart adults with their naughtiness. Another characteristic that it mirrors borders on a serious topic regarding the youth. Particularly, the scene where Ozzie swears to jump off the roof if his mother and his teacher would not promise to believe in what he says, suggests young people’s resorting to self-destruction.
Although Ozzie’s attempt to commit suicide could only be one of his jokes, we may note from this that young people sometimes resort to self-destruction in order to prove their point. At times, they risk their lives so that others could understand them and pay attention to what they are saying. The same theme of self-destruction is likewise reflected in Sonny’s Blues. Note that Sonny engages in drug addiction before his brother realizes that he has been misled. Although Sonny’s addiction gained his brother’s attention at the end, it is sad that Sonny has to resort to this in order for him to be recognized.
Whether he chooses to do this by will or not, it seems alarming that such a young man could think of self-destruction at a young age. Moreover, Sonny’s self-inflicted destruction leads to drug addiction, which further limits his opportunities in life. Another theme that characterizes the youth in the stories is the attempt to escape from reality. In The Conversion of the Jews, Ozzie attempts to escape his reality by locking himself up. In Sonny’s situation, he tries to escape reality by playing music and being with his friends.
Sad to note, many of our youth today are represented by the characters in these two stories. While some obtain a college degree and land a good job, many do not find the right path because no one is there to guide them. In order to ensure their future, parents and elders alike should work hand in hand in guiding the youth. They should know how to listen to the children when the latter are making a point. They should also understand the youth, and support them in the difficult situations in life. Good guidance should come from the immediate environment such as the family, school, and community.
In the same way that the society should lead the youth, the youth also serve as reminders to the elders. As we see in the two stories, the children’s actions serve as guidelines for elders’ behavior. In Sonny’s Blues, Sonny’s fate in drug addiction serves as a clear reminder to his brother of his negligence of Sonny. In The Conversion of the Jews, Ozzie himself teaches the elders how they should regard God. Although expressed with different styles, these two stories reveal much about the youth in every generation. They mirror the society in which the youth live, and give some advice on how to handle the youth.
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