Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin

Categories: James Baldwin

Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin depicts the story of two brothers and how they come to understand each other’s feelings. Also the story deals with the African-American experience and even though the two brothers have assimilated themselves in the white society, they experience the pain of institutional racism and their limitations in that society. Sonny here expresses his feelings through music and finds relief from his sufferings in bebop jazz and blues. Sonny uses music as a way to escape and finds that it is the only thing that gives him satisfaction.

Here the darkness symbolizes the two brother’s rough life and their sufferings in the white society.

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Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin 3 Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin In “Sonny’s Blues”, Baldwin describes Harlem as a dark place and narrates the whole story where the narrator and Sonny are brothers with an age difference of seven years. The darkness here represents the darkness in their lives, the darkness of racism felt by the African-American experience and their limitations in the white society. The rough life hat they lived and escapism helps them a lot and later they find relief through music and in the jazz club. This club helps them a lot to cope up with the darkness and hardships of life. This is their rescue and escape from darkness of life. Initially the brother who is narrator also does not accept Sonny’s choice to become a musician and feels that it is a phase of life, which will pass off soon.

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The narrator has the stereotyped thinking and was hard and cruel towards his brother’s drug addict friend and was not ready to justify with his sad story.

But deep down the heart he felt that there was something common between that childhood friend and his brother. When Sonny wanted to share his feelings with his brother and justify his drug abuse, the narrator did not want to accept it. But in the end he realizes and comes to a mutual understanding by the sound of jazz music and his disappointment for his brother being a musician turns into acceptance. Instead of drowning into his sorrows, Sonny finds escape in music and that relieves him a lot. This helps him to cope up with the darkness of life and face the difficult times and ituations in life. The narrator first of all gets disappointed when his brother chooses to be a musician but eventually feels that it was the best way and accepts it when he watches Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin 4 his brother play the piano and express himself through music.

The love of the narrator for his brother expressed in this part of the story is unconditional and by listening to jazz music his attitude towards life, himself and above all towards Sonny, changes. Baldwin uses the image of darkness quite frequently in his story Sonny’s Blues. First of ll it is used when the narrator talks about his younger brother Sonny and says that, “ when Sonny was young his face had been bright and open”. And he is not in a position to accept that his brother was going down from good to bad and said that “Sonny was wild but he wasn’t crazy”. The story starts as the elder brother is on his way to work as a schoolteacher and reads in the newspaper about his brother caught dealing with heroine. The narrator had suspected his brother of using drugs before but did not accept that his brother is in trouble and needs him.

Sonny had said, “ I hear you. But you never hear anything I say”. This shows the deep sorrow within him and search for help from his brother. Sonny’s love for music was his passion in life and found relief from his feelings in music and drugs. His attitude of escapism is seen everywhere just because he didn’t like Harlem and wanted to go away from it. In the beginning of the story, narrator states “two darknesses”, of which one was the darkness of their lives and the other was of the movies that made them forget about their lives for the time being.

Existing in Harlem and survive was a difficult task but the elder brother carries on his life as a schoolteacher but Sonny finds his way in music and drugs. Both of them have their own view of life and live their own life and feel satisfied. When the narrator talks to his old friend he understands and Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin 5 changes his attitude towards life, himself and his dear brother, Sonny. The story deals with the attitude of two persons towards life and when the narrator understands the feelings of his younger brother he feels differently.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin essay
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