Sonny’s Blues, by James Baldwin

Better Essays
Life comes with many struggles and gives strength to those who face them. James Baldwin’s short story “Sonny’s Blues” is about the struggles and hardships that every day people face. This story is about an aspiring musician, Sonny, Baldwin’s main character, whose life is portrayed through the eyes of his older brother. Because of Sonny’s lifestyle, his brother has lost touch with him for many years, but after a terrible tragedy the narrator reaches out to Sonny and tries to mend their relationship. Sonny is a recovering drug addict and as the story goes on, it seems as if Sonny has changed, but in reality he did not change, his brother just comes to realization that he cannot change him, but only accept and respect the man that he is and the man that he’s striving to be. Baldwin gives much depth to the storyline and also his characters.

His development of the characters seems to focus on one main character at a time, shifting from one to another. Sonny, who the story is about, is a troubled young man, who is also very private and some would say he’s a bit of a dreamer in a sense. At an early age he becomes addicted to heroin. He is also an aspiring musician who tends to keeps all of his problems bottled up throughout the story—except when he plays his music. Music for him is a freeing outlet. The narrator, also known as Sonny’s older brother is compared to Sonny and the many young men of Harlem. He served in the military in his earlier years and then became a successful, hardworking math teacher. Grace, the narrator’s daughter, dies of polio while her Uncle Sonny is in prison. Her death was the reason that the narrator takes the time out to write to his brother Sonny. Her death becomes an act of grace, resul...

... middle of paper ...

...,” constantly watching and worrying over him. Another conflict that Baldwin expresses in “Sonny’s Blues” is imprisonment. The characters are either trapped physically and emotionally or even both… Throughout the story, Sonny is constantly struggling to break free. Sonny is physically imprisoned in jail as well as by his addiction to heroin. The narrator is confined to Harlem to be specific. In addition, they are both trapped within themselves, the narrator unable to express his emotions or live up to his obligations as a brother until his daughter’s death gives him the motivation that he needs to change and do so, while Sonny is unable to express himself without heroin and his music.

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. "Sonny’s Blues." The Story and its Writer: An Introduction to Shorty Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. 8th ed. Bedord / St. Martin's, 2011. 835--839. Print.
Get Access