James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” is a short story depicting the relationship of two brothers, Sonny and an unnamed narrator. The story takes place in the project of Harlem, New York in the early 1950s. The narrator is a high school math teacher. His younger brother Sonny is a troubled musician struggling with his addiction to drugs. Before their mother dies, she asks the narrator promise to her he’ll look after his younger brother when she is gone. Throughout the story he struggles to keep this promise. At the end of the story Sonny invites the narrator to come to a music club and hear him play, he accepts the invite. Upon arrival the narrator realizes he is in Sonny’s world. Hearing Sonny play only one set he is in awe and sends his brother a drink of scotch with milk. Sonny accepts it and gives a nod of approval to his brother across the room. In that moment the narrator finally understands Sonny’s love for music. Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” displays the theme of brotherly love to illustrate, that love can keep a family together no matter how many fights or issues there may be.
That you shouldn’t let your living situations or surroundings determine your outcome. Sonny's Blues shows challenges that troubled the African-American community, and how drugs troubled the young artists and kept them bound like slaves. How those living in Harlem, felt like there was no escape to the poverty that surrounded them. How a young artist was overcoming his demons, with the support of his family and living out his dream. How one has to forgive and not let the past control one’s future, nor let the surroundings of your environment determine where you will go in
In modern-day life people often have their ups and downs of having power and losing it all. This is a key element in life, which is why many art forms choose to use it as their basis of writing. Literature often shows power and powerlessness through heroes and villains. However, author James Baldwin brings the battle of having and losing power through ordinary people’s life experiences. In the short story, Sonny’s Blues, written by James Baldwin examines the idea of how the desire to have power or control leads to having no power at all through the plot, characters, and setting.
This particular paragraph in “Sonny’s Blues” is incredibly important to the development and resolution of the story. At this moment, the narrator is watching his brother play the piano for the first time. He is overwhelmed by the sensations he receives from the music and also gains insight on his brother’s life. The narrator realizes that music is how Sonny expresses his feelings and how he copes with the struggles of everyday life. Without this paragraph, we lose the breakthrough moment the narrator has regarding his relationship with his brother. It also shows the dependence Sonny has on the piano and his addiction to the music. Sonny and the narrator finally come to a mutual understanding of one another in this scene.
How does Baldwin's real-life experience connect to his short story, "Sonny's Blues"? Read Baldwin's biography for more background on his life.
Using his writing as a form of self-expression, James Baldwin, an African American author, spent his life seeking to reveal the cruel reality of African American men. “Sonny Blues” Baldwin’s short fiction, was published in 1957 and takes place during the Harlem Renaissance. The literary work tells the story of Sonny and his brother (an unnamed narrator), as they seek to understand how to navigate the delicate and dangerous waters of familial relationships, their role in society and themselves. However, it is not until the end of the story when Sonny’s brother narrates the powerful, melodic sound of Sonny’s blues that he acknowledges his own pain. It is during his epiphany, when he finally begins to understand Sonny’s pain and the pain of every generation who came before him and after him. Baldwin’s acknowledgement as he declares, “I knew, no matter what anybody said, that the future I faced, was not the future they faced”
This was to take up the responsibility that was given to him and to let his brother know that he has someone on his corner. “I was sitting in the living room in the dark, by myself, and I suddenly thought of Sonny. My trouble made his real” (Baldwin 378). This shows that the brother has grown sympathy for Sonny. This is because his daughter’s death caused him to really sit down and evaluate the series of events that has taken place in Sonny’s life. The narrator says that Sonny’s trouble became surreal when the narrator was put in the position of losing someone dear to
Baldwin gives us an alternative space of darkness. This reference of darkness being depicted by the Narrator is his connection that the nightclub and what it stands for is symbolic to all the things negative associated in Harlem. The Narrator associates Jazz music and drugs as one of the same. “The waitress ran around, frantically getting in the last orders, guys and chicks got closer to each other, and the lights in the bandstand, on the quarter, turned to a kind of indigo.” The narrators idea of darkness is changed in this scene. His interpretation of darkness has changed. He begins to understand that with darkness of suffering and the light of liberation are allied which is why Baldwin incorporates the indigo light. The Narrator starts to understand Sonny’s musical form of expression. The music is now allowing him to feel instead of living in denial. Music has become the bridge between the two brothers.
Throughout the story of “Sonny’s Blues”, James Baldwin develops a theme that can still be related with today. The misunderstanding and lack of knowledge that the narrator experiences, about his brother, is something that many today feel, as their own family members are being prosecuted and they do not comprehend why. Within the story, there are numerous subtle ideas that are used to progress the story and theme along to the ending that is given. James Baldwin advances the theme of his story, that misfortune and anguish can be renovated into a unique art form, using characterizations, settings, and symbolisms.
James Baldwin is considered as the most well-known writer of the 20th century. His writings were mainly concerned by the problem of racism in America since he was one of the figures of the civil rights movement. “Sonny’s blues” is one of his greatest literary works, where we will notice how the persistent racism the writer experienced has had a great impact on his devoted writings.
I chose to write my Response Essay on the story "Sonny's Blues" written by James Baldwin. In Sonny's Blues, the storyteller recounts the tale of his association with his sibling, Sonny. Sonny is a performer not able to get away from the ghetto. Disheartened by his sibling's suffering , the storyteller connects with him, yet discovers that Sonny's hurt powers his music. The narrator is a teacher in Harlem that has changed his life and got out of the ghetto where he grew up. He sees African American youths finding the points of confinement put on them by a supremacist society at the exact instant when they are finding their capacities. The narrator talks about his association with his more youthful sibling, Sonny. That relationship has traveled
With “Puppy” two ladies have different perspectives on how to raise their children. Saunders delivers one informative scene from each woman’s life before permitting the women to engage. As with, “Sonny’s Blues” the narrator and Sonny go through hardships after the death of their mother. “Puppy” by George Saunders and “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin switches between two perspectives of the characters. Marie and the narrator in both of the stories essentially feel that it is not worth the trouble to help out the other two characters.
In James Baldwin's short story, Sonny’s Blues, the reader should understand and visualize the historical context in order to understand the world being presented. The reader has to comprehend the harsh life of a male African-American who struggles with his dreams and drug addiction sometime around early 1957. I will discuss Baldwin's writing style, the life/value of an african american's life during this time, and the relationship between Sonny and his brother.