By: James Baldwin
A captivating tale of a relationship between two troubling brothers in Harlem, "Sonny's Blues" is told from the perception of Sonny's brother, whose name is never mentioned. Baldwin's choice of Sonny's brother as a narrator is what makes "Sonny's Blues" significant in terms of illustrating the relationship and emotional complications of Sonny and his brother. The significance of "Sonny's Blues" lies in the way Sonny's brother describes their relationship based on what he observes, hears, and feels, and how he struggles trying to understand Sonny through the course of the story. This is a story of how two African Americans brothers take their own path through life as they struggle to find meaning in their lives.
The tone is melancholy and reminiscent. The brother is remembering the past and reflection on the mistakes he and Sonny made. He is sad over their fallout, Sonny's trouble with drugs, and the death of his daughter dying from polio. He regrets that he wasn't able to keep Sonny out of trouble like he promised his mother he would do, as she had done with their father. The two brothers in the story had different life choices. Both Sonny and the narrator have found their own mode of escaping the violence and harshness of the ghetto, different though those modes might be. After the death of the mother the narrator feels he is his brother's keeper, because of the promise he made to the mother. He is not exactly happy about it and especially Sonny's life style. Nevertheless, this is his only brother and he made a promise not to turn his back on him. Sonny was more like his uncle a music lover. Before the mother died she told him about his father and the pain he went through after the death of his brother. His father's brother was a music lover and somewhat like Sonny. So, by telling this story it would help the narrator to understand Sonny. Now he knows a little about his family background and roots. At the end the narrator was finally able to see and understand what music did for Sonny; it allows him to be himself and express himself to other.