Mending the Relationship of Two Brothers in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues

Mending the Relationship of Two Brothers in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues

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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. The encounters that the narrator and his brother, Sonny, have throughout the story exemplify Baldwin's theme of personal accountability and ethical criticism.

The older brother, the narrator, finds himself struggling at the beginning of the story. While riding the subway, he reads in the paper that Sonny has been arrested for possession of drugs. During his day of teaching, he reflects on prior years with Sonny and their past adventures as young boys. He remembers Sonny's "wonderfully direct brown eyes, and great gentleness and privacy." The narrator sees his brother as a good boy, not "hard or evil or disrespectful." He wonders how many of his algebra students are similar to Sonny in appearance and personality along with his drug habits. This comparison allows the older brother to conclude that Sonny was probably not arrested on his initial use of drugs. It also allows the narrator is see that Sonny may be like most of the other young boys in Harlem.

As the narrator makes his way to the courtyard heading home from school, a "friend" of Sonny's, another drug-user, approaches him. The narrator ...


... middle of paper ...


...the narrator and all people a way of finding meaning in their pains and joys. The two brothers again can live in brotherhood and harmony.

Works Cited

Finnessy, Patrick. James Baldwin. 2004. Biographies. University of Illinois at Chicago: Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Heterosexual Concerns (OGLBTC). 26 Apr 2004.

James Baldwin. 2004. American Masters. PBS. 23 Apr 2004.

Liukkonen, Petri. James (Arthur) Baldwin Books and Authors. 2002. Amazon.com. 20 April 2004.

Magill, Frank N. ed. Masterplots II: Short Story Series. Vol 5 Pru-Ter. California: Salem Press, Inc. 1986.

Sipiora, Phillip. Reading and Writing about Literature. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002.

Wilson, Kathleen, ed. Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context and Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories. Vol 2. Michigan: Gale Research, 1997.

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