2. “All that hatred down there,” he said. “All that hatred and misery and love. It’s a wonder it doesn’t blow the avenue apart.”
Sonny, following his release from prison, makes this observation about the street outside the window. He has just passed a religious revival being held on the street, which promises salvation even though none will actually be granted. Baldwin’s story is as much about Harlem as it is about Sonny’s life. This observation captures perfectly the complicated nature of the community. It is neither wholly terrible nor wholly wonderful, but rather a mixture of love and hatred. This mixture is what makes Harlem such a vibrant place, but it also threatens to destroy Harlem and the people who live there. Baldwin’s concern with the particular streets in Harlem is evident throughout this story. The avenue Sonny is referring to is most likely Lenox Avenue, one of the most important streets in Harlem, which Baldwin frequently wrote about.