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The Impact of Family in Sonny's Blues

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The narrator in James Baldwin’s short story, “Sonny’s Blues”, at first glance seems to be a static character, trying to forget the past and constantly demeaning his brother’s choices in life. Throughout the story, readers see how the narrator has tried to forget the past. However, his attempt to forget the past soon took a turn. When the narrator’s daughter died, he slowly started to change. As the narrator experiences these changes in his life, he becomes a dynamic character.

The story begins with the narrator’s brother, Sonny, being arrested for using heroin. When the narrator discovers what has happened to his brother, he slowly starts to relive his past. Up to this point, the narrator had completely cut his brother and his childhood from his life. He disapproves of the past and does everything in his power to get rid of it. The narrator had become an algebra teacher and had a family who he moved to get away from the bad influences on the street. As a result, it is shown in the story that he has worked hard to maintain a good “clean” life for his family and himself. Readers can see that he has lived a good life, but at the toll of denying where he came from and even his own brother. For years, his constant aim for success had been successful. However, as the story progressed everything he knew started to fall apart.

After discovering what has happened to Sonny, the narrator makes it seem as if he does not care and does not want interference in the life he has worked so hard to create. This is proven when the narrator discusses what has happened to Sonny with one of his brother’s friends. As shown through this quote, the narrator is not concerned about what has happened to his brother and believes it is not his responsibili...

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...rcome his own sufferings rather than trying to block them out.

In conclusion, “Sonny’s Blues” is the story of Sonny told through his brother’s perspective. It is shown that the narrator tries to block out the past and lead a good “clean” life. However, this shortly changes when Sonny is arrested for the use and possession of heroin. When the narrator starts talking to his brother again, after years of no communication, he disapproves of his brother’s decisions. However, after the death of his daughter, he slowly starts to transform into a dynamic character. Through the narrator’s change from a static to a dynamic character, readers were able to experience a remarkable growth in the narrator.

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. “Sonny’s Blues.” The Jazz Fiction Anthology. Ed. Sascha Feinstein and David Rife. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2009. 17-48.
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