When Comparing Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “The Lame Shall Enter First” and James Baldwin’s short story, “Sonny’s Blues” many similarities and differences come to mind. In both O’Connor and Baldwin’s short story’s they urge the reader to consider what the lack of fulfillment can do to people’s everyday lives. However, Baldwin addresses the theme of growing up in neglected households while O’Connor relates to the feeling of overall loneliness when it comes to home life.
One of the first things we realized as readers in these two literary works is that in both of the stories the major characters ave a real sense for lacking fulfilment in their everyday lives. In O’Connor’s short story, “The Lame Shall Enter First,” a major character is Shepard. Shepard is a the city’s recreational director in the story. Through his time a recreational director Shepard meets a troubled boy named Rufus Johnson, and attempts to turn his life around for the better.
After Rufus gets out of the reformatory Sheppard loses touch with the boy until he sees him on that street some weeks later, and gives him a key to his own house. Rufus begins to stay with Sheppard and his son and suddenly things start to change for the worse. On page 348 of O’Connor’s short story, Rufus turns back to violence as his way of making up for his lack of fulfillment in life.
The police officer that caught Rufus in the crime says, “He broke into a house around the corner from here, a real smash job, dishes broken all over the floor, and furniture turned upside down. Similar to this incident, a week later Rufus vandalizes another property again. The police officer that is talking to Shepard about this incident states on page 350, “Same thing as last week, except it’s a house on the corner of Shelton and Mills. It looks like a train ran through it. ” We quickly learn in O’Connor’s short story that Rufus vandalizes property because he is lacking fulfillment in his life. On page 335 of O’Connor’s short story, Sheppard states, “Rufus’s father died before he was born.
His mother is in the state penitentiary. He was raised by his grandfather in a shack without water of electricity and the old man beat him everyday. ” As readers, we infer that Rufus has had no homelife and commits crime for attention since he gets no attention at home. Likewise to this is Baldwin’s short story, “Sonny’s Blues”. A major character in this story is Sonny, and his brother who acts as the narrator. In this short story, Sonny has always had a deep love and passion for music, it gave his life meaning and fulfillment.
On page 48 of Baldwin’s short story, the narrator(Sonny’s older brother) comes out and says that his mother and father both passed away while he was in the army. Since Sonny’s parents both died, and his brother was off in the army, that left Sonny all alone. Sonny ended up staying with his brother’s wife, Isabel, and her family so he could finish high school. During this stay Isabel states in a letter to Sonny’s brother on page 54, “That having Sonny stay with her wasn’t like living with a person at all, it was more like living with a sound.
Sonny suddenly took a turn for the worse after being yelled at by Isabel’s parents and on page 55 the narrator states, “Sonny didn’t play any music that day, and that the silence in the following next few days must have been louder than the sound of all the music ever played since time began. ” Later on in O’Connor’s short story we find out that with the loss of music in Sonny’s life he quickly turned to another pain killer, Horse(Heroin). Sonny states on page 58, “When she was singing before, her voice reminded me for a minute of what heroin feels like sometimes -when it’s in your veins.
It makes you feel warm and cool at the same time. And distant. It makes you feel in control. Sometimes you’ve just got to have that feeling. ” When Sonny says this, we know as readers that heroin was the only thing that kept Sonny going after he lost his music. Through both of these stories from O’Connor and Baldwin it is blatantly clear that both authors wanted the reader to get a real sense of what lacking fulfillment can lead to in hese two kids everyday lives. A major difference that Baldwin addresses is the theme of growing up in a neglected household.
In Baldwin’s short story, “Sonny’s Blues,” the narrator on page 48 comes right out and states, that both of his parents died and he was off to take care of his little brother on his own while still involved in the army. Early on in the story Sonny states on page 51, “I want to be a musician like Charlie Parker, one of the greatest musicians alive. ” And the Narrator (Sonny’s brother) states, “You are getting to be a big boy, it’s time to start thinking about your future. This is just one small example of the first time Sonny was shot down and neglected in his household.
Another example, as we learned about before, is when Sonny is living with Isabel and her parent’s and he gets yelled at for doing the only thing that seem right to him, skipping school and playing music. After this incident Sonny completely shut down and turned to a more damaging pain relief, Horse. Later on in the story on page 58, Sonny and his brother are talking about a singer down the street and Sonny says, “When she was singing before, her voice reminded me for a minute of what heroin feels ike sometimes -when it’s in your veins. It makes you feel warm and cool at the same time. And distant.
It makes you feel in control. Sometimes you’ve just got to have that feeling. ” When Sonny say this it really makes me believe that during his whole life he was told what to do and how to do it, and his only family member neglected him and never really listened to him about what he wanted, so to take his mind off it he turn to a more serious distraction. Another major difference that O’Connor addresses in “The Lame Shall Enter First” is the feeling of loneliness throughout this short story. In “The Lame Shall Enter First,” Sheppard states to his son Norton, on page 336, “You have a healthy body and a good home.
Your daddy gives you everything you need and want. You don’t have a grandfather who beats you. And your mother is not in the state penitentiary,” and Norton responds with, “If she was in the penitentiary, I could at least go see her. ” So we learn very early on in this story that Norton’s mom died and it’s just him and his dad fending for themselves. With Norton’s eyes on Rufus during the entire story, Sheppard seems to forget and overlook Norton the whole time. On page 339, Sheppard is thinking about Rufus and states, “He wanted to give the boy something to reach for besides his neighbor’s goods.
He wanted to stretch his horizons. He wanted him to see the universe, to see that the darkest parts of it could be penetrated. He would give anything for the boy to be able to have that. ” After you read this as a reader you think to yourself well why wouldn’t he want that for his own son? So again, here is another fact that we are given by O’Connor that this boy really is all on his own, even his dad wants nothing to do with him. Towards the end of the story on page 348 Norton is ooking through a telescope and think he see’s his mother’s resting place. Norton says to his dad, “I’ve found her! I found mamma!
Come and look! ” and Sheppard responds, “Norton you don’t see anything in that telescope but star clusters. Now you’ve had enough for one night. I want you in bed in fifteen minutes. Do you know where Rufus is? ” Once again it is shown that Sheppard truly doesn’t care about Norton seeing his mother, he only cares about finding Rufus. It really shows again that Norton is alone in this world after all. Later on in the story, Sheppard realizes he was wrong and had been leaving Norton ll alone this whole time, but that is only after Rufus had been hauled off by the cops for committing all his vandalisms.
Once Sheppard find this out, it is too late, for Norton had hung himself, in hopes to take flight into space to see his mother. Throughout both of these works of literacy, O’Connor’s “The Lame Shall Enter First” and Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” have many similarities and differences. In both stories the authors urge the reader to consider what the lack of fulfillment can do to people’s everyday lives. The lack of fulfillment in people’s everyday lives, can really lead to negative things down the road.