Sonny's Blues Essay

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In “Sonny’s Blues” James Baldwin uses imagery and the theme of music to help strengthen the relationship between the narrator and his younger brother, Sonny. Throughout the story there is a continual struggle for the two brothers to understand each other. The narrator, who is the older brother, is an algebra teacher. He thinks that musicians and bar workers are the bottom of the barrel. The younger brother is Sonny, who at the beginning of the story is arrested for heroin and is also a jazz pianist. Jazz and the blues are about the heart, soul, and spirit and Baldwin shows this through the transformation of the brother’s relationship. The music not only helps the narrator understand himself, but his relationship with Sonny. It helps tell a story and express feelings when words fail to get the point across. As the late Hans Christian Andersen stated, “Where words fail, music speaks.” At the beginning of the story, the narrator discovers through reading a newspaper that his brother, Sonny, has been arrested for peddling and using heroin. The narrator refuses to believe the news and is forced to confront that past he and Sonny had experienced. The narrator states, “It was not to be believed” (Baldwin 145), and goes on to say, “I was scared, scared for Sonny. He became real to me again” (Baldwin 145). At the end of the school day, the narrator has a confrontation with Sonny’s friend, who came to bring him the news. At this moment, the narrator expresses his feelings about the friend, “I’d never liked him. He still hung around that block, was always high and raggy” (Baldwin 147). He continues to state, “But now, abruptly, I hated him. I couldn’t stand the way he looked at me, partly like a dog, and partly like a cunning child” (Baldwin 147). The conversation between the two started off as cautious and unsympathetic, but the narrator begins to hear the friend out and

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