The Demon

THE DEMON BLACK

The transition of being a black man in a time just after slavery was a hard one. A black man had to prove himself at the same time had to come to terms with the fact that he would never amount to much in a white dominated country. Some young black men did actually make it but it was a long and bitter road. Most young men fell into the same trappings as the narrator’s brother. Times were hard and most young boys growing up in Harlem were swept off their feet by the onslaught of change. For American blacks in the middle of the twentieth century, racism is another of the dark forces of destruction and meaninglessness which must be endured. Beauty, joy, triumph, security, suffering, and sorrow are all creations of community, especially of family and family-like groups. They are temporary havens from the world\'s trouble, and they are also the meanings of human life.
I think the main idea the narrators is trying to emphasize is the theme of opposition between the chaotic world and the human need for community with a series of opposing images, especially darkness and light. The narrator repeatedly associates light with the desire to clear or give form to the needs and passions, which arise out of inner darkness. He also opposes light as an idea of order to darkness in the world, the chaos that adults endure, but of which they normally cannot speak to children.
The story opens with a crisis in their relationship. The narrator reads in the newspaper that Sonny has been taken up in a drug raid. He learns that Sonny is addicted to heroin “horse,” and that he will be sent to a treatment facility to be "cured." Unable to believe that his once gentle and quiet brother could have so abused himself:
" Sonny had been wild, but not crazy, he had always been a good boy and had never turned hard or evil or disrespectful the way the kids did and still do in Harlem."…His face had been bright and open, there was a lot of copper in it; and he had wonderfully direct brown eyes, and a great gentleness and privacy…." (66).
The narrator cannot reopen communication with Sonny until a second crisis occurs, the death of his daughter from polio. When Sonny is released, the narrator brings him to live with his family.
The narrator remembers his last talk with his mother, in which she made him promise to "be there" for Sonny. Home on leave from the army, he has seen little of Sonny, who was then in school. His mother tells him about the death of his uncle, a story she had kept from him until this moment. His uncle, much loved by his father, was killed in a hit-and-run accident by a group of drunken “Whites,” who miscalculated in an attempt to frighten the young man. The pain, sorrow, and rage this event aroused colored his father\'s whole life, especially his relationship with Sonny, who reminded him of his brother. She tells the narrator this story partly in order to illustrate that there is no safety from suffering in their world as her husband had said:
“…Safe!” my father grunted, whenever Mama suggested trying to move to a neighborhood, which might be safe for children. “Safe, hell! Ain’t no place safe for kids, nor nobody.” (72).
The narrator cannot protect Sonny from the world any more than his father could protect his own brother. Such suffering is a demonstration of the general chaos of life out of which people struggle to create some order and meaning. Though suffering cannot be avoided, one can struggle against it, and one can support others in their struggles. Feeling his mother\'s burden of protector and keeper of his little brother, seems to have always utilized this unconscious defense mechanism. . As the narrative progresses, this is a device that has been used by Sonny and his older brother throughout their relationship.
Following the death of their mother, the first time that the older brother must act out her request, the conversation between him and Sonny is punctuated by the lighting. Beginning openly and honestly, the brothers discuss Sonny\'s future