Categories: BrotherhoodPsychology

A majority of the population knows the complete terror of being an older sibling. With becoming an older sibling, there tends to be the unveiling thought of protecting their younger brother/sister from harmful ways, all of the time.

In one way or another, the Narrative in Sonny’s blues has been experiencing those thoughts for most of his life. He is the older brother of Sonny; whose life took a turn once his heroin addiction had begun. Sonny’s addiction took a major toll on the Narrative’s conscience.

He believes that he failed both his mother’s orders and Sonny’s life for not protecting and being there for him. Through setbacks and sufferings, the brothers slowly begin to reconnect, and readers truly are able to get a real perspective on brotherhood. James Baldwin does a wonderful job of showing the concepts of brotherhood through the characters, themes and developing plotline and setting of Sonny’s blues.

Meanwhile, dealing with the characters in Sonny’s blues give readers more knowledge of how the two brothers interpret their own brotherhood.

Readers are able to see that interpretation through the first struggle at the beginning of the book when the Narrative describes the age difference between him and Sonny. “The seven years’ difference in our age lay between us like a chasm.

I wondered if these years would ever operate between us as a bridge.” (Baldwin, 23). The Narrative has always felt a disconnection with Sonny and blames that reason on the extended age gap between the pair.

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The “bridge” is finally formed when the Narrative’s daughter passes away.

The Narrative’s deceased daughter is the “bridge” that finally connects the two brothers again; letting their emotional relationship start to solidly form. According to Clara Mucci, author of the book, “Beyond Individual and Collective Trauma”, she states that it is often a psychologic matter when there is a broken bond, reconnecting.

The pain and sufferings that happens to human beings are the key elements to bringing together two individuals and fixing that damaged bond. This allows for the Narrative to finally reach out to his brother in a sense of him realizing that Sonny’s setbacks and suffers in life were just as real as his own.

Furthermore, Baldwin also indicates a damaging aspect of their brotherhood through the central idea of obligations and drug abuse. The Narrative’s mother gives him simple instructions to look after Sonny and to make sure Sonny knows that he is there for him. This fully gives the Narrative the wholesome feeling of being his brother’s keeper. After their mother’s death, Sonny’s life begins to spiral downhill. He begins to experience with drugs, ending up addicted to heroin and in prison.

According to Yvonne DeWit, one of the many authors of Mental health outcomes after major trauma in Ontario, she states that traumatic events are a major role in drug addictions. Sonny feels trapped and alone after their mother’s death and with his older brother joining the military, he had no other sort of support and turned to heroin for that matter.

The Narrative is consumed with guilt that he has failed his mother’s commandment to watch over his brother. At this rate, readers are slowly getting an idea of the relationship between Sonny and his old brother. Readers truly see how damaging their brotherhood in their diction in the middle of the story.

The climax begins to rise when the Narrative tries to question Sonny’s choices on his future. In the middle of their heated argument, Sonny tells his older brother “I hear you. But you never hear anything I say.” (Baldwin, 34). This is another example of how disconnected Sonny feels towards his brother and the weight it has on their brotherhood.

In addition, the concept of brotherhood is in the flashbacks being shared throughout the story. The flashbacks in Sonny’s Blues is one of the most important aspects of getting to know the relationship between Sonny and the Narrative. Most of Sonny’s Blues conflict appears in flashbacks that are being made by the Narrative about his time and experience with young Sonny near the time of their mother’s death.

It takes readers back to the Narrative when he decides to send Sonny a letter in prison. “My trouble made his real (Baldwin, 23),” states the Narrative speaking on behalf of the letter he sent Sonny after his daughter’s death. This inclines readers to realize that the Narrative is finally breaking out of his emotional defense towards Sonny.

The Narrative’s own suffers and setbacks in life ironically lets him realize and understand Sonny’s own failures in life. Finally bringing them back to a reconnected bond after years of it being broken.

Furthermore, the concept of brotherhood brings love, mistakes and a bond that will last forever, even in times of crisis. Baldwin lets readers view brotherhood through the Narrative and Sonny themselves as the audience sees their rekindled relationship.

Readers are able to see the concept through drug abuse and minor characters, like the brother’s mother and the Narrative’s deceased daughter. In lastly, readers are able to determine brotherhood and what it truly means through the tone and plot of the story.

In Sonny’s Blues no matter the situation brothers will always come together for one another in times of need. They will protect each other until the end of time because they know that brotherhood is a true gift and a never-ending experience of true acceptance and love.

Work Cited

  • Evans, Christopher C. D., et al. “Mental Health Outcomes after Major Trauma in Ontario: A Population-Based Analysis.” CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal = Journal De L’association Medicale Canadienne, vol. 190, no. 45, Nov. 2018, pp. E1319-E1327. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1503/cmaj.180368.
  • Klein, Reva. “Beyond Individual and Collective Trauma: Intergenerational Transmission, Psychoanalytic Transmission and the Dynamics of Forgiveness.” Psychodynamic Practice, vol. 22, no. 1, Feb. 2016, pp. 73-77. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/14753634.2015.1091746.

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Brotherhood. (2019, Dec 02). Retrieved from

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