James Baldwin’s fictional story, Sonny’s Blues, is a short tale between two brothers who grew up in Harlem – a place where drugs are known to destroy lives of many young people. The narrator’s brother, Sonny, is one of those young people addicted to drugs and the narrator got the news that his brother was imprisoned for illegal possession of heroin. Even though the narrator became worried about his brother’s bleak future because of drug addiction, the narrator did not reconcile with his brother until the death of his daughter.
With this turn of events, the narrator reunited with his brother through letters and finally upon Sonny’s freedom from prison. The narrator remembered his mother’s last will for him to take care and look after his younger brother, which he was not able to do. This memory and their conversations helped the narrator understand Sonny’s perception of life. Even though he and Sonny were very different, the narrator finally understood Sonny as he played his jazz music that described his deep emotions and blues (Baldwin 1-25).
The narrator is Sonny’s unnamed older brother who is a high school teacher in Harlem. His character is very much the opposite of Sonny’s. Despite the more common ill-fated living in Harlem, the narrator is a successful man as shown in his occupation and family. However, he is a failure in terms of looking after his brother as his mother had wished before death. On the other hand, Sonny is a musically inclined person who resorted to drugs in order to keep himself from being overwhelmed by the suffering in his surroundings.
His contrasting personality from his brother also built the gap and separation between them. Unlike his brother, Sonny was not able effectively cope with his situation that led to his faulty decisions in life. However, all his angsts, angers, and other deep emotions were expressed passionately through his music. Theme The theme of the fictional story revolved around the concept of love between brothers. The narrator and Sonny are brothers who were separated by their differences. However, the meaning of the story tells the readers that no matter how different brothers are, they are obligated to love each other.
This can be shown by supporting and understanding each other and seeing through their differences. Brotherly love is also illustrated by not killing the hope that a misguided or misled brother can find his way back, in this case, through Sonny’s music. Conflict, Crisis, Resolution The conflict in the story revolved around the narrator’s doubt about Sonny’s capacity for change. Many times over, the narrator did not trust that Sonny can change for the better, hence he did not put much effort in understanding his brother.
Even though the narrator did not explicitly show this, Sonny was able to feel the doubt from the narrator and other people around him though he did not express his feelings. The turning point that bridged the gap between the two brothers was when the narrator remembered his promise to his mother to look after his brother. Hence, when Sonny poured out his feelings in his music, the narrator was finally able to understand and accept his brother. Point of View The story is told in the first person through the point of view of the narrator who is a main character in the story.
The narrator is the older brother of Sonny who began narrating the story by saying, “I read about it in the paper, in the subway, on my way to work. I read it, and I couldn’t believe it, and I read it again” (Baldwin 1). The use of the first person, I, suggests that the focus of telling the story is through the eyes of the narrator. This means that all revelations and emotions are told to the readers as the narrator perceives them from other characters.
Baldwin, James. “Sonny’s Blues”. Web. 6 July 2010