Professor Polnac Analysis of "Sonny's Blues" Essay

Submitted By Catrose92
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C. Woods 1
Caitlyn Woods
Professor Polnac
English 1302
27 June 2013
Analysis of “Sonny’s Blues”
James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues" is a tale of brotherhood through severe struggles in Harlem. One day the narrator reads a story in the newspaper about a man who was arrested and imprisoned the night before for possession and selling of heroin. The man the media was speaking of is the narrator's brother. The narrator is in disbelief and confusion as to how his brother went from being the bright and opened, brown-eyed boy to a hardened drug addict and criminal. It takes the narrator a very long time to write his brother in prison, but after he does, their relationship is rekindled and the two stay in constant contact until Sonny's release from prison. The narrator and his wife allow Sonny to stay in their home with them, and Sonny picks back up and pursues his career in playing music. One night the narrator attends one of Sonny's shows at a local night club, and through his music, the narrator seems to start to grasp an understanding for his brother's sorrows, his struggles, and his pain. He realizes he needs to listen and learn from what his brother says and does. He realizes the importance of music to Sonny, something he never did before. The central idea in "Sonny's Blues" is that brotherhood can prevail through immense amounts of obstacles. The story is written in first person point of view through Sonny's brother, whose name is never mentioned in the story. The narrator is Sonny's older brother who leads a fairly successful life as a teacher in Harlem, New York. The narrator seems to be a very internal with his emotions, and struggles with the decisions he has made in regards to the care of Sonny. He is very judgmental, and has a hard time sympathizing with others, which is displayed in his interactions with Sonny's friend who comes to the school to deliver the news that Sonny had been arrested. He is also very reluctant to hear of Sonny's interest in music when they were younger. He is skeptical and seems to criticize his brother's decision for wanting to play jazz music for a living. I believe these character flaws create the large gap between Sonny and the narrator's relationship. Sonny's life revolved around his music. It's how he expressed his emotions and seemed to work out what he had going inside when he got going on the piano. When the boy's mother passed away, the narrator and his wife let them live with them for a while, but Sonny was troubled and caused trouble by skipping school and getting into drugs which led into a fight one night that resulted in Sonny running away to the Navy. Sonny fell into the music scene once again upon returning from the Navy, and with the music crowd came the drugs. Sonny seems to fall into what other people are doing and doesn't have much of a strong stand for himself in the younger version prior to going to prison. A lot of his confusion and ill choices seem to be from feeling so misplaced and unwanted by the narrator at a young age. The main conflict of the story is internal in the narrator. He seems to struggle not only with the dissatisfaction of living in Harlem, but also with whether or not he should feel responsible for, or care for Sonny. The narrator is a successful man living in Harlem, where he feels stuck. He describes hating what he sees on the streets, in the schools, and where they live. Several times he refers to people in public having a fury. This I believe to be expressing his inner emotions for the area he is living in. The city he lives in makes it a lot easier for young kids, such as his brother to get going down the wrong path very quickly. He expresses guilt upon Sonny's release