Talkin Bout Sonny by Toni Cade Bambara
In Talkin Bout Sonny by Toni Cade Bambara we have the theme of violence, acceptance, conflict, responsibility and denial. Taken from her Gorilla, My Love collection the story is narrated in the first person by a young woman called Betty Butler and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Bambara may be exploring the theme of violence. Sonny has killed his girlfriend/wife and it seems to be a case that Betty is the only one in the bar who thinks that this may be wrong. She listens to Delauney talking about the killing and he appears to be justifying Sonny’s actions. As though Sonny’s actions are acceptable. At least to Delauney they are. He sees no wrong in what Sonny may have done and comments on his own behaviour when it comes to women he has been in a relationship with.
The theme of denial is self-evident. If anything Delauney is in denial about Sonny’s actions even though Sonny has previously shown a violent side when losing a basketball game and ending up tearing his sneakers apart. Likewise Sonny is in a state of paralysis when playing a basketball game it suggests that all is not well with Sonny. There is something that triggers him into paralysis just as he has been triggered into acting violently. If anything there appears to be a degree of conflict in both Sonny and Delauney’s life. Both men incur difficulties when it comes to the women they are in a relationship with. Sonny has killed his partner while Delauney has thrown his partner out of their home despite the fact that he has two children with the woman. It doesn’t seem to dawn on Delauney of the importance of having a mother in his daughters’ life. Though Betty may have a maternal instinct and as such Delauney allows her to be present in their lives.
There may also be some other symbolism in the story which might be important. The fact that Delauney doesn’t move from the bar nor does Betty suggests there is a paralysis in both their lives. Neither is moving forward despite Betty wanting Delauney to admit that what Sonny has done is wrong. It is as though the conversation is going around in circles and will remain unresolved. The sneakers that Sonny rips up (as mentioned previously) lend the reader to believe that Bambara is using them to highlight or foreshadow the killing of Sonny’s partner. Sonny has the potential to be violent. Lee acts very much as the reader might act. He is an observer to what is happening. He has no real opinion on what has happened and only knows as much as the reader.
The end of the story is interesting as Bambara appears to be continuing to explore the theme of responsibility. Delauney seems to be placing the blame on Sonny’s partner and on women in general. He does not accept responsibility for his or Sonny’s actions. As though it is the woman in the relationship that is at fault. Though relationships can be difficult there is never a need for violence. It remains unacceptable to the majority of people but this is not the case when it comes to Delauney. Something that annoys Betty as she sees the differences between herself and Delauney and Sonny. As a woman one would understand why Betty is being so vocal but her words fall on deaf ears.