"Sonny's Blues"

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The Evolution of a Relationship through Music

In "Sonny's Blues", theme, form, and image blend into perfect harmony and rise to a thundering climax. The story, written in 1957 carries a vital social message for us today. It tells of two black brothers' struggle to understand one another. The older brother, a well-off Harlem algebra teacher, is the unnamed narrator. The younger man is Sonny, a jazz pianist who, when the story opens, has just been arrested for peddling and using heroin. In Sonny's Blues, chronological time is upset yet the author, Baldwin, allows everything to come together in the end. In "Sonny's Blues" the tragedy and suffering can be transformed into an art such as blues music. This can be viewed as a catalyst for change, as the narrator begins to understand not only the music, but also himself and his relationship with Sonny.

The narrator learns his brother Sonny has been arrested from reading the newspaper and this disturbing discovery initiates the two brothers growing closeness. The shock of this recognition forces the narrator to confront his past with Sonny. The narrator encounters an old friend who has come to the school to bring the news. Conversation between the two proves to be guarded and hostile. When the conversation begins, for no reason, the narrator exclaims, "But now, abruptly, I hated him" (33). As the continued to talk, the narrator begins to hear him and feels guilty for never having listened to him before. As the friend goes on to tell about how he first told Sonny about the effects of heroine, you sense a hidden caring from the narrator. He seems to not care but timidly asks questions such as "so what's going to happen to him now" (34). In this situation we see the first...

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...ruly gone through a change and they have done it together. Sonny's music stirs special memories in the each of the brother's lives. Music proved to ultimately be the thing that brought them close and gave each of them the brother that they had always wanted, but was never there.

"Sonny's Blues" is a story about two brothers whose relationship evolved through suffering and tragedy and allowed music to be a catalyst for change and ultimately bring the two closer than they had ever imagined. The story tells of two brothers who over time, come to understand each other. It began with the brothers not being in contact, to the end of the story where Sonny proclaims to the narrator for the first time, "You are my brother." Sonny learns to channel his suffering into music and when his brother finally understands that the two are closer than they ever have been.
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