Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin

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“Sonny’s Blues” revolves around the narrator as he learns who his drug-hooked, piano-playing baby brother, Sonny, really is. The author, James Baldwin, paints views on racism, misery and art and suffering in this story. His written canvas portrays a dark and continual scene pertaining to each topic. As the story unfolds, similarities in each generation can be observed. The two African American brothers share a life similar to that of their father and his brother. The father’s brother had a thirst for music, and they both travelled the treacherous road of night clubs, drinking and partying before his brother was hit and killed by a car full of white boys. Plagued, the father carried this pain of the loss of his brother and bitterness towards the whites to his grave. “Till the day he died he weren’t sure but that every white man he saw was the man that killed his brother.”(346) Watching the same problems transcend onto the narrator’s baby brother, Sonny, the reader feels his despair when he tries to relate the same scenarios his father had, to his brother. “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.”(355) He’s trying to relate to his brother that even though some try to cover their misery with doing what others deem as “right,” others just cover it with a different mask. “But nobody just takes it.” Sonny cried, “That’s what I’m telling you! Everybody tries not to. You’re just hung up on the way some people try—it’s not your way!”(355) The narrator had dealt with his own miseries of knowing his father’s plight, his Brother Sonny’s imprisonment and the loss of his own child. Sonny tried to give an understanding of what music was for him throughout thei...

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... the miserable life that African Americans had to withstand at the time. From the narrator’s life in Harlem that he loathed, to the drug problems and apprehensions that Sonny was suffering from, to the death of his own daughter Grace, each of these instances serve to show the wretchedness that the narrator and his family had to undergo. The story in relation to Baldwin possibly leads to the conclusion that he was trying to relate this to his own life. At the time before he moved away, he had tried to make a success of his writing career but to no avail. However, the reader can only be left with many more questions as to how Sonny and the narrator were able to overcome these miseries and whether they concluded in the same manner in the life of Baldwin.

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. “Sonny's blues.” Baldwin, James. Going to meet the man. New York: Dial Press, 1965.
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