Eminent psychologists have made convincing arguments for the effect birth order has on personality. In addition, laymen can cite innumerable examples of domineering, pragmatic, reliable older siblings contrasting with those fitting the "youngest stereotype" -- irresponsible, spoiled, and selfish. Such character traits often cause lifelong conflict between siblings. In his short story "Sonny's Blues," James Baldwin shows a profound example of such sibling friction. Baldwin paints a realistic portrait of an older brother, Richard (the narrator), always steady, predictable, and in control, and Sonny, a musician and recovering heroin addict who looks at the world through a different lens. Throughout his life Richard distances himself from Sonny, both by rejecting his views and attempting to control him. During the story, we see Richard evolve into finally understanding and communicating with Sonny, which requires him truly to listen to both his brother's words and his music. Baldwin's story represents an example for all those experiencing conflict, whether or not they are brothers. By letting go of our yearning to subjugate others and make them fit the molds we think they should, as Richard discovers, we pave the way for harmony and meaningful relationships.
Richard vividly narrates incidents that led to his alienation from Sonny. Through a childhood memory, the author exhibits how Richard's practical nature separates them early on. At fourteen, Sonny imaginatively speaks of traveling to India, an idea his brother scoffs at (416). "I think he sort of looked down on me for that," Richard says. The older brother's rejection of Sonny's music damages th...
... middle of paper ...
...s to "let out the reins" as Creole does and recognize that his brother can do things by himself and as he chooses. Appropriately, Baldwin selects Sonny's music to show both his brother and the readers that no two people, even siblings, must agree on everything. Sonny's music tells Baldwin's audience what Richard had to learn "the hard way": Some questions have more than one right answer. Sonny and Richard will coexist more peacefully and enjoy a truly fulfilling relationship if Richard continues to let go of his need to change Sonny and accept him for who he is. Through a poignant and intimate family portrait, Baldwin urges us to tread a middle path in our relationships - a path of support at more of a distance than our hearts would often prefer.
Baldwin, James. "Sonny's Blues." The Oxford Book of American Short Stories 1992: 409 - 439.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Themes in Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin After reading the short story "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin, I find there are two major themes that Baldwin is trying to convey, suffering and irony. The first theme that he brings out and tries to get the reader to understand is the theme of suffering. The second theme that the author illustrates is the theme of irony. James Baldwin writes about two African-American brothers growing up in Harlem, a black ghetto in New York, during the 1950's. During this time black people were forced to live in a world of prejudice, discrimination, poverty and suppression.... [tags: American Literature Sonny's Blues Baldwin Essays]
1013 words (2.9 pages)
- The short story Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin is written in first person through the narrator. This story focuses on the narrator’s brother sonny and their relationship throughout the years. This story is taken place in Harlem, New York in the 1950s. The narrator is a high school algebra teacher and just discovered his brother in the newspaper. This story includes the traditional elements to every story, which consist of the exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and the resolution.... [tags: Fiction, Short story, Climax, Jazz]
1002 words (2.9 pages)
- James Baldwin’s short story, “Sonny’s Blues,” is the authors most studied and critically analyzed piece of literature. The majority of these analyses focus on the obvious themes of the book such as jazz music, the unnamed narrator, or the rift that divides Sonny and his brother. Little critique has ever gone into the biblical and religious themes that run throughout the story of “Sonny’s Blues.” Furthermore, it is even more astonishing that there is little critique given Baldwin has such a strong history with the world of Christianity.... [tags: Literary Review]
1266 words (3.6 pages)
- Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin A captivating tale of a relationship between two troubling brothers in Harlem, "Sonny's Blues" is told from the perception of Sonny's brother, whose name is never mentioned. Baldwin's choice of Sonny's brother as a narrator is what makes "Sonny's Blues" significant in terms of illustrating the relationship and emotional complications of Sonny and his brother. The significance of "Sonny's Blues" lies in the way Sonny's brother describes their relationship based on what he observes, hears, and feels, and how he struggles trying to understand Sonny through the course of the story.... [tags: Sonny's Blues James Baldwin]
1217 words (3.5 pages)
- When first reading “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin, it may initially seem that the relationship between musicians and drugs is synonymous. Public opinion suggests that musicians and drugs go hand and hand. The possibility lies that Sonny’s passion for jazz music is the underlying reason for his drug use, or even the world of jazz music itself brought drugs into Sonny’s life. The last statement is what the narrator believes to be true. However, by delving deeper and examining the theme of music in the story, it is nothing but beneficial for Sonny and the other figures involved.... [tags: Sonny’s Blues, James Baldwin, drugs, music,]
826 words (2.4 pages)
- Mending the Relationship of Two Brothers in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues According to Liukkonen, James Baldwin is well known for his "novels on sexual and personal identity, and sharp essays on civil-rights struggle in the United States." "Sonny's Blues" is no exception to this. The story takes place in Harlem, New York in the 1950's and tells of the relationship between two brothers. The older brother, who is the narrator and a participant in the novel, remains unnamed throughout the story. The novel is about the struggles, failures and successes of these two African American brothers growing up in the intercity as a minority.... [tags: Sonny's Blues Essays James Baldwin ]
1277 words (3.6 pages)
- Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin "Sonny's Blues" is a story about two brothers, their past, and how their differences came between them. They were apart for several years while Sonny was in jail, but once he got out they had a chance to mend their pasts. "Sonny's Blues" is a well written story that teaches a lesson that has value in every day life. The tone is melancholy and reminiscent. The brother is remembering the past and reflection on the mistakes he and Sonny made. He is sad over their fallout, Sonny's trouble with drugs, and the death of his daughter.... [tags: Sonny's Blues James Baldwin]
501 words (1.4 pages)
- There are many things we learn of Sonny and his nameless brother in Sonny's Blues. We learn their mannerisms, hobbies, occupations, and even their addictions. It seems we learn nearly everything about the pair; minus the narrators name, as previously stated. Hearing of their histories and the pains they've under gone, we see how they deal with their pain, which often truly tells character. Sonny's Blues isn't a story of two brothers living in a rough city; one of whom is a talented musician. The story is so much more, it's the point of tossing the main two stereotypes of African-Americans in an urban environment.... [tags: James Baldwin Sonny's Blues]
1007 words (2.9 pages)
- Symbolism in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues Missing Works Cited Several passages found throughout "Sonny's Blues" indicate that as a whole, the neighborhood of Harlem is in the turmoil of a battle between good and evil. The narrator describes Sonny's close encounters with the evil manifested in drugs and crime, as well as his assertive attempts at distancing himself from the darker side. The streets and communities of Harlem are described as being a harsh environment which claims the lives of many who have struggled against the constant enticement of emotional escape through drugs, and financial escape through crime.... [tags: James Baldwin Sonny's Blues]
1244 words (3.6 pages)
- James Baldwin's Story Sonny's Blues James Baldwin?s story ?Sonny?s Blues. is a deep and reflexive composition. Baldwin uses the life of two brothers to establish parallelism of personal struggle with society, and at the same time implies a psychological process of one brother leaving his socially ingrained prejudices to understand and accept the other's flaws. The story is narrated by Sonny?s older brother whom remained unnamed the entire story. Sonny's brother is a pragmatic person, a teacher, husband, and father.... [tags: James Baldwin Sonny's Blues Essays]
1265 words (3.6 pages)
- Suffering and Surviving in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues
- The Inevitability of Suffering in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues
- Life Struggles of Phoenix in Eudora Welty's A Worn Path
- Realism in Eudora Welty's A Worn Path
- Overcoming the Odds in Eudora Welty's A Worn Path
- Sympathy for Nora in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House